News Feature | January 31, 2014

TCGA Study Reveals Potential Target Area For Bladder Cancer Treatment

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By Cassandra Leger

A research study conducted by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network, revealed that specific subtypes of bladder cancer resemble other subtypes of cancers such as those related to the breast, head, neck and lungs; suggesting that these subtypes of cancers may have related routes in their developmental stages. The research also opened up new potential targets for treatment for one of the more prevalent bladder cancers. Statistics show that over 15,000 individuals will die from bladder cancer in 2014 and 72,000 additional cases will be diagnosed this year as well.

TCGA is both managed and supported by both arms of the National Institutes of Health; the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute. Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. and Director of NIH stated, “TCGA Research Network scientists continue to unravel the genomic intricacies of many common and often intractable cancers, and these findings are defining new research directions and accelerating the development of new cancer therapies.”

The study investigated muscle-invasive bladder cancer, which is the deadliest form of the disease and consists of the cancer entering the muscle tissue of the bladder. The only known treatment for this type of cancer is rigorous and includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Currently, there are no second line alternatives for patients with this form of bladder cancer. Dr. John Weinstein, MD, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and lead author of the study expressed his views on the study, “This project has dramatically improved our understanding of the molecular basis of bladder cancers and their relationship to other cancer types. In the long run, the potential molecular targets identified may help us to personalize therapy based on the characteristics of each patient’s tumor.”

The study was conducted on 131 patients diagnosed with muscle-invasive bladder cancer, but had not yet been treated with chemotherapy. The team found that there were recurrent mutations in 32 of the studies genes; 9 of which were not previously identified as being significantly mutated. Half of the tumor samples studied were consistent with the TP53 gene having been mutated; the gene that produces the p53, a tumor suppressor protein that aides in the regulation of cell divisions. Mutations were also found in 44% of the RTK/RAS pathways that were investigated; this pathway is associated with the regulation of cell growth and its development.

The research brought forward a new development which showed that there were more mutations in chromatin regarding bladder cancer than any other common cancer, suggesting new targets for therapy. Of all the tumors investigated and studied, 69% of them had potential targets for future therapy.

Seth Lerner, M.D., Professor and Chair in Urologic Oncology, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and senior author of the publish research paper concluded, “We’ve organized our medical care around the affected organ system. We have thought of each of these cancers as having its own characteristics unique to the affected organ. Increasingly, we are finding that cancers cross those lines at the molecular level, where some individual cancers affecting different organs look very similar. As targeted drug agents go through preclinical and clinical development, we hope that rather than treating 10 percent of breast cancers or 5 percent of bladder cancers, it eventually will make sense to treat multiple cancer types where the target is expressed.”