As part of its mission, Bladder Cancer Canada (BCC) is committed to furthering research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of bladder cancer. Thanks primarily to funds raised from the annual Awareness Walk, BCC has been able to award $50,000 for two years in a row to research investigators committed to improving the understanding and treatment of bladder cancer right here in Canada. The grant recipients were determined by an expert review committee comprised of physicians and research specialists in the field bladder cancer.
Lead Investigator: Dr. Alan So – University of British Columbia
Research Title: 3D Bioprinted Tissues: Building a novel platform for bladder cancer
Optimal therapy for bladder cancer remains challenging due to the difficulty in predicting response to therapies. The research the BCC grant centered on the development a 3-dimensional (3D) bioprinted bladder cancer model as a platform for personalized medicine.
We have successfully developed 3D bladder cancer tissues through two different methods. Firstly, we have established a protocol of 3D bioprinting human bladder tumor structures. We have used different human bladder cancer cell lines as proof-of-principle and we have been able to show that these tumors can be kept alive for several weeks. We have also been able to treat them with various chemotherapies and see a regression in tumor size suggesting usability of our 3D bioprinted bladder cancer model. Currently, we are collecting human tissue samples from bladder cancer patients and starting to grow their tumors using this approach. Secondly, another method we have established uses whole organ decellularization. In this 3D bladder cancer model, we are engineering bladder cancer models in a more complex environment. We have successfully established a protocol for whole bladder decellularizaion and have successfully established re-seeding the same organ (scaffold) with human bladder cancer cell lines. Currently we are treating them with several chemotherapy drugs to validate our 3D model. We foresee that our 3D bladder cancer models will potentially allow us to identify the most effective therapy for each patient, translating in the improvement of patient’s care and quality of life.
Lead Investigator: Dr. Alexander Wyatt – University of British Columbia
Research Title: Detection of genomic hypermutation in metastatic bladder cancer using circulating tumor DNA
Status: In progress
Exciting new treatment options have recently emerged for metastatic bladder cancer. However, because each patient’s cancer has distinct ‘molecular’ features, patient responses to these new therapies are highly variable. Therefore, efforts are underway to develop tools for determining the ideal therapy for each individual based on their tumor ‘molecular subtype’. In this study, a blood-based test to identify DNA mutations present in metastatic bladder tumors was developed. This test relies on the fact that cancer cells sometimes shed their DNA into the circulating bloodstream, meaning that a small blood sample from a patient can contain tumor cell DNA. It was determined that most patients with metastatic bladder cancer can have their tumors analyzed in this manner. These results also represent the first time that a large cohort of metastatic bladder cancer patients have been molecularly profiled. Importantly, this work shows that it is feasible for patients to have real-time clinically-practical testing of their cancer’s DNA subtype, without the need for a direct tissue biopsy. The team plans to continue to develop the blood test so that it can help guide rational therapy selection in advanced bladder cancer.
Congratulations to both of these researchers for their diligent work to help improve outcomes for those living with bladder cancer. And most importantly thank you to our generous donors and walk participants who have made this research a reality.
Bladder Cancer Canada has launched another bladder cancer grant competition for the 2018 calendar year. The deadline to apply is October 1, 2017. For more information, visit https://bladdercancercanada.org/en/bcc-grant-application/
To learn more about other projects BCC is funding visit: https://bladdercancercanada.org/en/bcc-funded-research/