New ways to personalise bladder cancer treatments

A new way of previewing which bladder cancer treatments will be successful for specific patients has been discovered by a US research team. 

The team at UC Davis in California, along with colleagues at Jackson Laboratory, used mice as testing beds for treatments. 

The proof-of-concept research involved removing bladder tumours from patients, finding their specific mutation, and grafting them onto mice. 

The team then tested various therapies on the mice to see which ones were effective.


Pre-screening gives better outcomes

Author Chong-Xian Pan, a genitourinary oncologist, says the pre-screening technique helps improve health outcomes for patients by reducing toxicity and increasing efficiency. It also lowers costs. 

Many cancer drugs work by targeting specific genetic anomalies. 

The team hopes that by finding these specific mutations in each patient’s tumour, they can provide a clear treatment plan. 

The only obstacle is that while many tools can find mutations, they cannot always say which one is driving the cancer’s growth.


Hundreds of mutations

A cancer can have anything from a handful of mutations to hundreds, especially in adult cancers. 

Lung cancer, for example, can have hundreds of mutations with only a few being important. 

The current research still cannot figure out which mutations are important and which are not. 

Oncologists are forced to choose a specific therapy without having all the information they need. 

Because of the time pressure on treatment, and the sometimes toxic effects, it makes backtracking and trying a different treatment difficult.


Better accuracy

The UC Davis study shows the tumours grafted to mice provide better outcomes than growing tumours in a dish, as these deviate from the source in just a few days.

As tumours develop faster in mice, it can also give results for certain treatments more quickly. 

Pan says in one of the mice, two separate drugs failed to work, but when combined they were successful. When this was applied to the patient the results were the same. 

Ideally, the long-term goal is to convert the research into a computer model, whereby they will biopsy the patient and feed the information into the computer to find out which therapy works best.

The research was published in the journal PLoS One. 

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