New bladder cancer treatments used in clinical trials could save 'many lives'

A new approach to treatment that could improve the survival rate and quality of life for people suffering from bladder cancer is being trialled in Yorkshire.

Researchers are identifying the genetic cause of a patient’s muscle-invasive bladder cancer so they can provide bespoke treatments, instead of taking a one-size fits all approach.

More than 300 patients will be involved in the study, being run by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Leeds Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Leeds.

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Under the current system, many NHS patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer have surgery to remove the organ. That is combined with other treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The clinical trial team in SheffieldThe clinical trial team in Sheffield
The clinical trial team in Sheffield

Only 45 per cent of patients survive for at least five years after cancer invades the muscle layer of the bladder and it is one of the most expensive cancers to treat.

But there is research to suggest a patient with particular genetic markers may respond best to chemotherapy alone, while immunotherapy may be more effective for patients with another set of markers.

Some patients may not respond well to chemotherapy or immunotherapy and need immediate surgery.

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Professor Simon Crabb, co-chief investigator of the study, said it could “fundamentally change our approach” to treatment.

He said: "We hope to utilise the biological characteristics of each cancer to tailor the correct treatment choices.

"The aim is to provide the right treatment to the right patient and so improve outcomes, as well as avoid unnecessary side effects.”

Professor Syed Hussain, the lead oncologist for the study, said it was “hugely exciting” and could lead to treatments that were far more effective.

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“Combined treatments currently have the best cure rates but they also have the most complications, are expensive and affect a person’s well-being,” he said.

"Recent advances have suggested that treating all individualpatients as though they have the same type of bladder cancer, with everyone receiving the same treatment schedules in the same way, may not be best for individual patients.”

He added: “This is an exciting trial that may help to improve the outcome for our patients in coming years and change the landscape for patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer.”

Allen Knight, a trustee at Action Bladder Cancer UK, said: “(It) will let doctors diagnose the sub-types of muscle-invasive bladder cancer, enabling them to tailor treatment to each individual patient, rather than the current ‘one size fits all’ approach.

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“This has the potential to give the correct treatment more quickly and avoid unnecessary treatment, thus radically improving patients’ quality of life and saving many lives.”

During the trial, called GUSTO, half the 320 patients will receive treatments based on their genetic sub-type.

The other half will receive the current standard treatment.