The Future of Bladder Cancer Detection? Pee in a Cup

Contributing Editor

Researchers led by Tufts University engineers have developed a way to scan urine to detect the signature features of cancerous cells, a non-invasive method to check for bladder cancer that could make screening easier than current tests, which require visual inspection of the bladder itself.

Bladder cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States (17,240 so far in 2018, says the American Cancer Society), though early detection can promote a 5-year survival rate of 95 percent. That drops to just 10 percent when bladder cancer is not caught before it reaches advanced stages. The recurrence rate is also high, between 50 and 80 percent, requiring repeat bladder exams called cystoscopy that involve running a tube with a video camera into the bladder through the urethra.

The new urine testing technique uses atomic force microscopy (AFM) to develop a map of the surface of cells, a method researchers say is more accurate than visual examination. It’s also considerably more convenient -- to screen at-risk healthy people as well as bladder cancer survivors, who would only have to provide a urine sample. So far, the test demonstrates more than 90 percent sensitive in detecting bladder cancer, compared with 20 to 80 percent sensitivity for current non-invasive testing methods, such as biomarker or genetic analysis. Next, researchers hope to apply their cancer detection test to other tumor types, including gastrointestinal, colorectal, and cervical cancers.

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences