Defining biomarkers to spot bladder cancer
The European FP7 project DeCanbio brought together a consortium of clinicians and researchers in genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics to identify and validate biomarkers that hint at a recurring bladder cancer. The Centre de Recherche de la Santé (CRP-Santé) joined forces with researchers and clinicians from France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, and Germany to develop a simple test to spot this.
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Bladder cancer is a common cancer in Western Europe, and although in general treatments are initially quite effective, there is a very high recurrence rate (some 50% of the patients may develop a new cancer in the two years following the treatment). To detect patients with a high recurrence potential, the development of a simple diagnostics test that can be performed routinely using urine samples instead of periodical cystoscopy would constitute a major benefit for the patients. It would also have a positive effect on the overall costs of the treatment.
The Luxembourg Proteomics Clinical Center (LCP) is headed by Bruno Domon. Together with a group of scientists, Professor Domon was intensively involved in the second phase of the project to validate the discovery results for potential routine clinical tests, i.e. to detect proteins differentially expressed in tissue samples. The hypothesis is that such proteins will be shed from the bladder tumour into the urine, and thus detectable in urine samples. Major efforts were devoted to design mass spectrometry based assays to measure peptides representative of the proteins of interest and hence could be used as biomarkers.
Collaboration with the private sector
The European project on bladder cancer has resulted in determining over forty differentially expressed proteins, which have been examined in a study to define a small panel of markers (ideally 5 or 6) that could be used routinely in clinical practice.
This last step is still on-going as is the final assay, and its approval as a diagnostic test needs extensive validation in a large population to assess its specificity and selectivity. Such a study has to be part of a follow-up project to valorise the findings of a pure research programme. However, the practical implementation of clinical tests requires a large-scale study and prior regulatory approval. Such large-scale follow-up projects could typically be conducted in collaboration with industrial partners such as diagnostics companies, or publicly funded EU projects.