Non-Invasive Test for Bladder Cancer May Save Lives: Dr. Sashi Pawar and Researchers Excited about Test's Potential for Earlier Detection

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More than 70,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with new cases of bladder cancer in 2009 and it's the fourth most common type of cancer in men and the eighth most common in women, leading to roughly 14,000 deaths a year. Researchers are fine-tuning a simple urine test that can detect bladder cancer up to six months before other methods, with up to 95 percent accuracy. The test, called UroVysion, requires only a urine sample to detect genetic changes in cells from the bladder isolated from the urine, a key indicator of bladder cancer.

More than 70,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with new cases of bladder cancer in 2009, according to the National Cancer Institute. It's the fourth most common type of cancer in men and the eighth most common in women, leading to roughly 14,000 deaths a year.

But today, researchers are fine-tuning a simple urine test that can detect bladder cancer up to six months before other methods, with up to 95 percent accuracy. It may replace invasive procedures such as a cystoscopy - in which a tube is snaked into the bladder - or a biopsy.

The test, called UroVysion,TM requires only a urine sample to detect genetic changes in cells from the bladder isolated from the urine, a key indicator of bladder cancer.

This advanced, non-invasive test will be used both to diagnose and monitor bladder cancer, says Dr. Shashi Pawar, an authority on genetics at Acupath Laboratories in Plainview, NY, who works with pathologists specializing in uropathology, the science of diagnosing illnesses within the urinary tract.

The test has the potential to make testing easier for the patient and doctor, enabling earlier detection of bladder cancer and saving lives.

Says Dr. Pawar, "Researchers believe the new test, from Abbott Labs, will help increase early detection rates for bladder cancer, which is frequently diagnosed in its later stages, making it more difficult to treat."

Today, when bladder cancer is suspected, a physician may order a combination of diagnostic exams including laboratory urine tests; a PET or CT scan; a cystoscopy, and/or a surgical biopsy. UroVysion would allow pathologists to examine a urine sample for specific genes and genetic activity related to bladder cancer.

"Any time you make testing easier and less invasive, and can detect cancer earlier, the patient benefits," says Pawar.

Bladder cancer symptoms include:

  • blood in the urine
  • pain during urination
  • frequent urination, or
  • frequently feeling the need to urinate without actually voiding.

Who's at risk?
According to the American Cancer Society, men are three times more likely than women to develop bladder cancer. Since men are often less likely to seek medical attention when a symptom first arises because of apprehension about invasive tests, Pawar believes UroVysion may help encourage more early-stage patients to undergo testing sooner rather than later.

The precise causes of bladder cancer so far have eluded experts. Many believe that both genetic and environmental factors come into play. Risk factors include:

  • age -- people under 40 rarely develop the disease
  • smoking -- smokers are more than twice as likely to suffer from bladder cancer as nonsmokers, notes the American Cancer Society. Smoking can also be blamed for close to half of bladder cancer deaths
  • race -- whites have the highest bladder cancer rates; Asians the lowest
  • family or personal history -- people with family members who've had bladder cancer are at increased risk. Recurrence is also common among those who've had the disease, and
  • being a man.

Studies have also found that people who have been infected with parasites common in the tropics, or have been treated with the drugs cyclophosphamide or arsenic, are also at increased risk. Certain industrial chemicals often used in the dye industry -- aromatic amines, such as benzidine and beta-naphthylamine -- have also been linked to the disease.

About Acupath: Acupath is a leader in providing physicians and patients with accurate and innovative pathologic, molecular and cytogenetic analyses. It has a national reputation for offering the latest advances in uropathology and related technologies, and is accredited by the Joint Commission and College of American Pathologists, among other national organizations.

About Dr. Pawar: Shashi Pawar, Ph.D, FACMG, is the director of genetics at Acupath Laboratories Inc. (http://www.acupath.com). With more than 20 years of varied experience in molecular genetics and molecular pathology, Dr. Pawar is American board of Medical Genetics-certified in both clinical cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics. Prior to joining Acupath, Dr. Pawar was the VP of technical development for Genova Diagnostics. She holds a fellows title with the American Board of Medical Genetics and is a member of the Association of Molecular Pathology. In addition, she has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, among others. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the City University of New York.

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