A research team led by the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the US has developed a new simple test to identify bladder tumours that can become invasive.

This capability is expected to not only prevent unnecessary overtreatment of some bladder cancer patients but also decrease the costs imposed by the condition on the country’s health care system.

As predictive diagnostic data for bladder cancer is limited, clinicians are said to err on treatment decisions.

“The new test is designed to look for overexpression of the STAG2 gene in bladder tumours removed during initial surgery.”

Statistics reveal recurrence in around 70% of patients who are treated for early-stage lesions that have not invaded the bladder wall, while 20% of them subsequently develop an invasive cancer.

As a precaution, clinicians prefer to carry out a post-surgery surveillance regimen every three months over two years post-tumour removal, followed by every six to 12 months. This is considered extremely intensive.

The new test is designed to look for overexpression of the STAG2 gene in bladder tumours removed during initial surgery. The STAG2 gene was previously found to be involved in the formation of potentially deadly tumours in the bladder.

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Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center oncology professor Todd Waldman said: “We are closer to our goal of lowering the risk of both aggressive bladder cancer and over-surveillance and treatment side effects in bladder cancer patients.

“In principle, it might be possible to reduce the frequency of post-resection surveillance and therapy in patients whose cancer is STAG2-negative, and, conversely, treat patients and keep up high-frequency surveillance in patients who have positive test results.”

The researchers carried out a study to validate the new test and observed that it is 2.4 times more accurate than current diagnostic approaches in detecting tumours that are likely to recur.

Additionally, the team found their test to be 1.9 times more precise at identifying tumours that are likely to progress, invade the bladder wall and spread.