Recent results from a new clinical study published in the Journal of Urology have shown that a new simple urine test may be effective in the detection of bladder cancer.
Cancer of the bladder is characterized by the presence of cancer cells in the bladder, the organ that is located in the lower abdomen that serves to store urine. Treatment options, which depend on the stage, or extent, of the cancer and a number of other factors, may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and/or biologic therapy (treatment utilizing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer). At present, there are no tests available that provide a screening for bladder cancer. Screening refers to clinical tests performed that can detect the presence of a disease in patients before the existence of any symptoms. Common symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, and/or painful and frequent urination. Unfortunately, most bladder cancers are diagnosed after these symptoms are exhibited, and the cancer is usually at an advanced stage. In order to increase cure rates of this disease, detection of cancer must be at an early stage,before the onset of these signs.
Recently, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have reported the results of a clinical study utilizing a urine test to detect bladder cancer in patients. The test is designed to detect specific proteins, called BLCA-4, that are abnormal in cancer cells. In the study, over 100 persons had their urine tested for BLCA-4 levels. Approximately half of these persons had previously been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Over 96% of persons that had already been diagnosed with bladder cancer showed high levels of BLCA-4 in their urine. Conversely, all of the persons who did not have bladder cancer showed low levels of BLCA-4 in their urine.
From these findings, it appears that high BLCA-4 levels in a patient’s urine may be an accurate indicator of the presence of bladder cancer. Only further studies will reveal the true clinical significance of these findings. However, this simple test may be used as a widespread screening method in the future, enabling earlier diagnosis of bladder cancer which may ultimately lead to a higher cure rate for this disease. Persons with bladder cancer may wish to speak with their doctor about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating urine BLCA-4 levels or other promising new treatment strategies. Two sources of information on ongoing clinical trials that can be discussed with a doctor include a comprehensive, easy to use listing service provided by the National Cancer Institute (
Journal of Urology, Vol 164, No 3, pp 634-639, 2000)