Urine Test May Screen for Bladder Cancer

Test Checks Levels of an Enzyme Linked to Bladder Cancer

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 25, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 25, 2005 -- A new test for bladder cancer is in the works, Italian researchers report in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The test screens urine for an enzyme called telomerase. High telomerase levels may indicate cancer, including bladder cancer, write the scientists.

But the test isn't ready. Bigger studies are needed first, write the researchers. They included Daniele Calistri, PhD, of Morgagni-Pierantoni Hospital in Forli, Italy.

If successful, the test would probably target high-risk patients, not the general public, write Calistri and colleagues.

Bladder Cancer Increasing

Bladder cancer has been on the rise for the last few decades, note the researchers.

Consider these statistics from the American Cancer Society:

  • Bladder cancer will be diagnosed more than 63,000 times in the U.S. in 2005.
  • Bladder cancer is men's fourth most common cancer and women's ninth most common cancer.

Some more facts from Calistri's study:

  • Bladder cancer is three times more common in men than in women.
  • About eight in 10 patients are at least 60 years old.
  • Smokers are roughly three times as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers.

Early Detection Can Save Lives

Early detection can improve the chances of surviving bladder cancer. That's all the more reason to come up with a better test, suggests Calistri's team.

Currently, a cystoscopy is performed to see the inside of the bladder and remove a small sample of tissue (biopsy) from the area. It involves inserting a tiny tube with a scope through the urinary system to the bladder. The biopsy specimen would be evaluated in a lab for cancer cells.

Cystoscopy is the "gold standard" diagnostic tool. However it is an invasive test that can carry risks of infection, bleeding, and rupture of the bladder.

It's important to find a "manageable and more accurate diagnostic tool," the researchers write.

Simple, Low-Cost Test

The researchers used the new test on urine samples from 84 healthy men and 134 men with confirmed bladder cancer.

The big question: Would the test correctly show who had bladder cancer and who didn't?

The test wasn't right all the time. Still, it was highly accurate and sensitive, even in finding low-grade tumors, the study shows.

The urine test was inexpensive, easy to use, good at detecting early bladder cancer, noninvasive, and objective, note the researchers. Larger studies are needed before the test can be widely used, they caution.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Sanchini, M. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 26, 2005; vol 294: pp 2052-2056. American Cancer Society: "What Are the Key Statistics for Bladder Cancer?" News release, JAMA/Archives. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Prostate Cancer: Cystoscopy or Bladder Scope Test."

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