Seeking New Ways to Detect Bladder Cancer

A new urine test called UroSEEK was recently developed by researchers at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center that can detect DNA mutations that are common among bladder cancers. A DNA mutation is a change in our genetic sequences. Mutations can have no effect or sometimes can even be beneficial, but occasionally these changes in DNA will cause cells to become cancerous.

How does the new test work?

Identifying certain mutations that may indicate bladder cancer can help doctors diagnose bladder cancer at earlier stages or discover recurrences early. The new urine test is a noninvasive test that uses urine samples gathered during normal doctor visits and tests them for these mutations.

Researchers have combined the new test with the current standard cytology tests and discovered a higher accuracy and a higher sensitivity than using either test alone, resulting in earlier diagnoses. The combination of tests also aids in the surveillance and monitoring of patients previously treated for bladder cancer who are in remission.

How will this affect me?

As with many cancers, the sooner bladder cancer is diagnosed, the better it can be treated. Early stage bladder cancer has a much better prognosis than metastatic disease, and newer, more sensitive urine tests can improve early detection.

In almost one-third of bladder cancer patients, detection is late and the cancer has already grown into the bladder wall. Even when cancer is detected early, bladder tumors often come back, and monitoring frequently requires costly biopsies and cystoscopy procedures for life. Using UroSEEK combined with cytology, doctors can now test for bladder cancer much faster than before.


Researchers studied 570 patients considered to be at risk for bladder cancer and found UroSEEK was 83% accurate in yielding positive results in those who developed cancer. When combined with cytology, another standard urine test, the sensitivity of UroSEEK increased to 95% in patients who developed the disease.

In a group of 322 patients previously treated for bladder cancer who were in the surveillance stage of testing periodically for recurrence, cytology alone detected recurrences in only 25% of patients. Once UroSEEK was combined with cytology mutations were detected in 71% of the group.

The new test may make it easier for patients and physicians to detect bladder cancer early on or screen for bladder cancer in people who may be at a higher risk. It may also be more tolerable for survivors of bladder cancer who need ongoing monitoring and wish to avoid more invasive tests like cystoscopies.

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