Major new trial launched for bladder cancer

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK launches one of the most significant bladder cancer trials of the last decade today to find out whether a new treatment combination could save lives and improve quality of life.

One of the trial's Principal Investigators, Dr Nick James, will reveal details of the study this afternoon at a Conference of Urological Cancer Specialists in York.

The trial will determine whether radiotherapy and chemotherapy can be administered successfully at the same time, as well as comparing two methods of delivery of radiotherapy. It is being organised by The Institute of Cancer Research and the Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies at Birmingham.

Doctors have acknowledged that the combined treatment could save lives but up until now they have felt the double attack would be too harsh a treatment. Advances in targeting radiotherapy now mean side effects are reduced allowing the combination to be tested.

Bladder cancer affects over 12,000 people a year, around half of whom receive radical radiotherapy and while five year survival runs at 65 per cent many patients develop a secondary growth.

Some patients also require surgical removal of the bladder, which impairs quality of life and can require reconstructive surgery - often unavailable in the UK.

Researchers hope that as well as improving survival for the disease, using a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy could reduce the need for surgery.

Dr Nick James of the Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies, says: "Being able to give the radiotherapy when cancer cells are already sensitive as a result of the chemotherapy should have a cumulative effect and hopefully produce better survival and reduce the need for surgery to remove the bladder.

"The trial is significant because it is the first time that different radiotherapy planning techniques have been compared in bladder cancer in order to see if toxicity can be reduced without affecting tumour control rates."

Patients will be monitored throughout their treatment and will complete questionnaires during and after this time so the trial can compare the effectiveness of the treatment while also measuring the quality of the patients' lives.

Joint Prinicipal Investigator, Dr Robert Huddart of The Institute of Cancer Research says "One of the most important aspects of this trial is that we will be seeing whether we can improve the quality of life of bladder cancer patients being treated by radiotherapy. We will be using quality of life questionnaires to assess this, as it is as important to ensure that a patient can live as normal a life as possible without ill effects from treatment as it is to prolong life."

The trial will recruit at least 480 patients from more than twenty clinics over three years.

Incidence rates for bladder cancer in the UK are among the highest in the world. One of the most common early symptoms is blood in the urine and anyone experiencing this should consult their GP immediately.

Sir Paul Nurse, Interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK says: "Bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and it is vital to find better ways of treating patients who are affected by the disease."

ENDS

Note to editors:

Blood in the urine may be due to other causes such as prostate and urinary tract infections but should always be checked by a doctor. It is also an early symptom of kidney cancer and some other kidney diseases.

The researchers are using the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil as which is known to have less toxic effects on the kidneys than some other drugs.

The following research centres are participating in the trial:

  • The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
  • The Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton
  • Cheltenham General Hospital
  • Bristol Oncology Centre
  • Northern Centre for Cancer Treatment, Newcastle General Hospital
  • Exeter Oncology Centre, Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital
  • James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough
  • Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS Trust
  • Essex County Hospital
  • Princess Royal Hospital, Hull
  • Derbyshire Royal Infirmary
  • Royal Sussex County Hospital
  • St Luke's Cancer Centre, Royal Cancer Centre Hospital, Surrey
  • Torbay Hospital