Health & Wellness

A New Test May Mean Spotting Bladder Cancer Early

A simple urine test could detect bladder cancer years before symptoms appear

A new study from the UN World Health Organization has found that a simple urine test appears to find bladder cancer 10 years sooner than clinical diagnoses can.

Researchers with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) discovered that they could detect a specific mutation in a gene called the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT). The TERT gene mutation is common in bladder cancer.

“These new results are another exciting step towards the validation of a non-invasive early detection tool,” said Dr. Florence Le Calvez-Kelm, an IARC scientist and the principal investigator of the study, in a news release. “This test could significantly improve and simplify the way in which bladder cancer is detected.”

The IARC study was designed in cooperation with the Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran and the United Sates National Cancer Institute. Researchers combed through a database of information about more than 50,000 Iranian patients and found 38 who had no bladder cancer when their data was collected but later went on to develop the disease. The test for the TERT mutation found it in 46.7% of the 38 patients but in none of the 152 people in a control group.

Researchers hope that further study will validate the results and lead to low-cost tests that are less invasive than those currently used, which can passing instruments through the urethra to example the inside of the bladder or collecting cells through biopsies.


“If the findings are validated, large trials conducted in individuals at high risk of developing bladder cancer should be designed to address the health and cost benefits of screening for [the gene] mutations for the global bladder cancer burden,” said Dr. Mahdi Sheikh, an IARC scientist and a co-author of the study.

Photo: iStock/Lothar Drechsel.