There are breast and colon cancer screening programs but none for bladder cancer. This could change thanks to a very simple diagnostic tool: a urine test. The details of Géraldine Zamansky, journalist at the Magazine de la Santé on France 5.
franceinfo: A French team is at the heart of this promising research?
Geraldine Zamansky: Absolutely, it is the team of Dr Florence Le Calvez-Kelm, of the International Agency for Research against Cancer in Lyon. They succeeded in showing that we could find in the urine a very early warning signal of bladder cancer. This warning signal is called a biomarker. That is to say a molecule very often present in these tumours. And passing through the bladder in contact with cancer cells, the urine “catches” this biomarker.
Florence Le Calvez-Kelm explained to me that they had found it in 87% of classically diagnosed patients! Then, Iranian colleagues looked for this marker in urine samples donated at the start of a search by thousands of patients followed for more than 15 years. And it was already present up to 10 years before the identification of bladder cancer!
So a simple urine test could detect this cancer at a very early stage?
This is the idea of these two teams who hope to reduce mortality linked to bladder cancer, which is often diagnosed too late. Its main symptom is the presence of blood in the urine, but it can also cause frequent cravings, for example. So do not hesitate to consult. Especially if smoking is or has been in your life.
Because we speak more often of the lungs but the bladder is also endangered by tobacco. Florence Le Calvez-Kelm explained to me that this urine test would be very useful for smokers. And for people exposed to other toxic substances in their professional environment, for example.
Would this test make it possible to organize screening for these at-risk groups? It does not exist today?
For the time being, this targeted screening is held back because to really diagnose bladder cancer, you have to examine the inside with a camera. So it’s a very small camera placed at the end of a thin and flexible cable. But it still has to pass through the urinary tract. It is a cystoscopy performed under local anesthesia by a urologist.
We really prefer to fill the famous little plastic pot with urine… And if we take the side of the health authorities, it costs much less. In addition, the urine test could also be used to replace this video examination for the monitoring of patients who have already been treated and whose risk of relapse is high. It is currently being assessed by the Lyon team. We hope for positive results to facilitate the follow-up of patients and their victory in the face of bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer : the key points