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    New Test for Bladder Cancer

    05/10/2012

    Researchers of the Universities of Würzburg and Freiburg have identified a marker which indicates with high reliability whether a person suffers from bladder cancer. The patent application is pending; the Bavarian Patent Alliance ("Bayerische Patentallianz GmbH") is currently looking for pharmaceutical companies interested in obtaining a license.

    Blasenkrebs: Gewebsschnitt unter dem Mikroskop
    LASP-1 Immunfärbung (braun) eines Urin-Zytospins von einem an Blasenkrebs erkrankten Patienten. Die Pfeile markieren LASP-1 positive, bösartig veränderte Urotelzellen. (Foto: Institut für Klinische Biochemie)

    In Germany, about 30,000 people develop bladder cancer each year. This makes the disease the fourth most common type of cancer after lung cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer in men or breast cancer in women. As a treatment, the tumor tissue is usually surgically removed in patients; further measures, such as additional surgery, local chemotherapy and regular follow-up endoscopy of the urinary bladder (cystoscopy) are often necessary. If the cancer has already metastasized to other parts of the body, the survival chances of the respective patient are low. Therefore, it is very important to detect the disease as early as possible.

    The new marker

    The scientists of the universities of Würzburg and Freiburg have now taken an important step towards achieving this goal: They have identified a new marker which is suitable as an indicator of the so-called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the urinary bladder. Accounting for 95 percent of all cases, TCC is the most common type of bladder cancer. "We were able to show that the protein LASP-1 can be detected in the urine of patients suffering from TCC," says Professor Elke Butt-Dörje, acting director of the Institute of Clinical Biochemistry and Pathobiochemistry of the University of Würzburg. Thus, the protein represents a highly promising marker for bladder cancer.

    Together with her Freiburg colleague, the urologist Dr. Peter Ardelt, the Würzburg professor developed a marker for LASP-1 and tested it on 130 patients. The result: "Our studies showed that the marker exhibits high sensitivity, meaning that persons suffering from bladder cancer are reliably detected," says Butt-Dörje. Furthermore, the marker has a very high specificity, which means that healthy people are not mistakenly classified as sick. In this way, unnecessary biopsies and cystoscopies can be avoided. A further advantage: A small amount of urine is sufficient for the test; sampling of blood is not required and neither is cystoscopy.

    Patent application filed

    Supported by Dr. Iris Zwirner-Baier, inventor consultant and patent manager at the Service Center for Research and Technology Transfer of the University of Würzburg, the scientists have already filed a patent application for their invention. The Bavarian Patent Alliance, the central patent and marketing agency of Bavarian universities and universities of applied sciences, is presenting the product at the 2012 BioVaria conference in Munich. At this event, the representatives of pharmaceutical, biotechnological and venture capital industries can get informed on cutting edge life science technologies and obtain the respective licenses.

    The next steps

    However, the scientists are by no means finished with their task. "At the moment, we are expanding the group of study participants," says Elke Butt-Dörje. The researchers are going to test the reliability of the marker on a group of 500 patients in order to get even more significant results so that the test can stand comparison with already existing test methods that have been available on the market for a long time and thus have been applied in the treatment of many patients.

    "Our marker is clearly better than all other urine-based tumor markers," the scientist states with confidence. It reliably predicted bladder cancer in 85 percent of all cases – a very good value, which is distinctly better than that of conventional test methods.

    The researchers also intend to develop a different analysis method, which is faster and more easily applicable in clinical practice. The current procedure is comparatively complex and it takes 24 hours until the test result is available.

    Will this test be part of the routine program for preventive medical checkups in a few years time? Elke Butt-Dörje has her doubts about this. After all, this would involve quite some costs. The decision lies with the health insurance providers. In any case, the test is suitable as standard procedure for follow-up monitoring after bladder cancer treatment. It could provide quick and quite reliable information to determine whether the tumor has recurred or whether the patient can consider himself / herself as cured.

    The Bavarian Patent Alliance (Bayerische Patentallianz GmbH)

    As the central patent and marketing agency of 28 Bavarian universities and universities of applied sciences, the Bavarian Patent Alliance brings the inventions of more than 18,000 scientists to the market, supporting inventors in the proprietary protection and commercialization of their invention. The agency provides industry with unique access to the largest technology pool in Bavaria. Due to the high research quality of Bavarian universities and technical institutions, the Bavarian Patent Alliance manages a great variety of innovative, patent-protected inventions in the fields of life sciences and physical sciences.

    BioVaria 2012

    About 70 inventions of universities and other research institutions from Germany and Europe will be presented in Munich on May 15 under the motto "Europe's Next Top Technologies". At this event, company representatives are given the opportunity to get a quick overview of the newest technologies and to discuss the scientific details directly with the inventors. The presented patent-protected technologies are already at an advanced stage of development, ready to be commercially utilized. The projects are in the fields of the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other disease areas.

    Contact person

    Prof. Elke Butt-Dörje, T: +49 (0)931 31-83174, e-mail:butt@klin-biochem.uni-wuerzburg.de

    By Gunnar Bartsch

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