Landmark bladder cancer study launched
Ground-breaking research into a ‘forgotten’ cancer that kills 15 people every day in the UK is set to increase our understanding of the disease.
The radical new study will investigate how different lifestyle factors, such as how much patients exercise, impact health professionals’ ability to treat bladder cancer. It is one of the first in the UK to use the Trials within Cohorts (TwiCs) design for cancer research – allowing scientists conducting lifestyle research to replicate the placebo control effect used in drug trials.
A drive to recruit 400 patients in the next five years has been launched to coincide with Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, which aims to boost the profile of the disease.
The Roberts Study is named after Graham Roberts who died of bladder cancer in July 2016 at the age of 58, following 20 months of treatment led by Dr Simon Chowdhury from Guy’s Hospital.
Graham and his wife, Dianne Roberts, donated £1.79 million over five years, to the Translational Oncology and Urology Research (TOUR) team at King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
There were 5,400 deaths from bladder cancer in 2016 but it receives less than 1% of cancer research spend in the UK.
Dianne, 59, from Belgravia in London said: ‘Funding bladder cancer research is the only way to ensure other people don’t have to go through what Graham and I did. It is about making a difference to other people’s lives.
‘I am incredibly proud that such an important and exciting piece of research carries our name which helps to keep Graham’s memory alive.’
The Roberts Study is for patients who have been newly diagnosed with bladder cancer or have a recurrence of the disease. It will collect blood and urine samples as well as baseline information from a questionnaire, which will be repeated every 12 months to track any changes. This will include data on a patient’s quality of life, fatigue, diet and physical activity. When signing up to the overall study, patients consent to be part of possible future trials.
Explaining how the TwiCs design worked, Dr Mieke Van Hemelrijck, Senior Lecturer in Cancer Epidemiology and Academic Lead of the TOUR team at King’s College London, said: ‘If you were to enrol people in an exercise trial and tell them they were the group who weren’t going to do any exercise, it might actually make them think of doing more exercise.
‘In this study, if we develop an exercise trial for bladder cancer patients, we will only contact those who will get the intervention. So the ‘control’ arm – the arm that receives standard care – will never know they are the control arm of the trial. This helps to isolate the effect of the intervention.’
The TOUR bladder cancer team, jointly led by Dr Mieke Van Hemelrijck and clinical lead Dr Simon Chowdhury, includes dedicated clinicians, researchers, nurses, technicians and students. Their work includes the creation of a new bladder cancer biobank, alongside a parallel research programme which will increase the number of patients being treated in clinical trials.
Bladder cancer is the tenth most common cancer in the UK, but the ninth most common cause of cancer death in the UK and the seventh in men.
The top three symptoms to look out for are: blood in your urine, urgent and frequent urges to urinate and urinary infections that do not clear up.