Which is Easier to Tame – a Gene or a Lion?

Bladder cancer gene variance could become important therapeutic target

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Bladder cancer likes to come back. It’s just one of those high rates of return cancers. Experts may have uncovered a new genetic path for taming this disease. And that would be excellent news.

The majority of people with bladder cancer have a genetic variation. It’s called a prostate stem cell antigen (PSCA). Interestingly, PSCA also plays a role in pancreatic and prostate cancer.

A simple genetic test can detect the protein. Then anti-PSCA drugs currently being developed may one day become an effective bladder cancer treatment option.

"Quit smoking to reduce bladder cancer risks."

Almost 75,000 Americans found out they had bladder cancer in 2012. Before they begin to spread, bladder tumors can be controlled with surgery. However, lifelong monitoring is needed to check for its return - and that's expensive.

Invasive bladder cancer – that creeps into the bladder muscles – is a more ferocious animal, sometimes impossible to tame. Nearly 14,000 Americans didn’t beat bladder cancer last year.

A genetic variant has been known to increase bladder cancer risks. A research team at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) identified this variation, which is called rs2294008. When the variant is present – and it is in 75 percent of bladder cancer cases – the tumor promoting PSCA proteins are too.

The authors explain that every gene has its own complex alphabet. And one letter in the string that’s out of place can interfere with the way the cell works. And this alteration can lead to cancer.

Ludmila Prokunina-Olsson, PhD, of the NCI Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, said in a statement, “This latest work reveals how a specific letter change in DNA influences protein expression at the cell surface. The big payoff is that a simple genetic test can determine which patients could benefit from anti-PSCA therapy."

A single genetic test that looks for the “T” nucleotide can be used to look for PSCA.

This team hopes to test drugs that target the cancer-promoting PSCA protein in humans. Various anti-PSCA drugs are currently in clinical trials as treatments for pancreatic and prostate cancer.

The researchers suggest anti-PSCA therapy may improve bladder cancer treatment effectiveness, reduce harmful side effects and be less expensive.

The authors acknowledge that more work is necessary to perfect a drug and delivery methods that will work specifically against bladder cancer.

This study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, was published in the January 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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Review Date: 
January 2, 2013
Last Updated:
January 4, 2013