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Identifying a biological marker for bladder cancer

UCD Conway Institute

Dr Amanda McCann, UCD Conway Institute and UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science will deliver a lecture on her research towards identifying a reliable biological marker that can indicate patients most likely to develop invasive bladder cancer at the UCD Conway Institute on Tuesday, Sept 19th 2006 at 11:00am.

The lecture is part of the Irish launch of the 2006 Terry Fox Run - the world’s largest single day fundraiser for cancer research. Terry Fox was 18 years old when doctors diagnosed a malignant tumour on his right leg, amputating his leg six inches above the knee. Inspired by his experience Terry decided to run 8,500km across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He called his journey the Marathon of Hope. Terry completed two thirds of his challenge before he died of lung cancer aged 22 and today his spirit lives on in hundreds of Terry Fox Runs held in 52 countries around the globe.

Forty tickets are available on a first come first served basis for those interested in attending the lecture and subsequent tours of laboratory facilities at the UCD Conway Institute. To reserve a ticket, email or telephone (01) 231 05 18 by Friday, September 15th.

In Ireland, over 400 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year. With early diagnosis, bladder cancer can be safety removed if the tumour has not spread. However, thirty percent of patients initially diagnosed with a localised tumour on the inside of the bladder wall will develop an invasive cancer, even if the original tumour has been removed successfully.

The current test for bladder cancer recurrence is by visual inspection using a flexible scope inserted into the bladder via the urethra. This procedure is invasive, uncomfortable and does not always detect local invasion.

Dr. McCann’s research group focus on proteins that anchor cells to one another. One example of such a protein is alpha-T-catenin (CTNNA3), which plays a key role in binding cells to each other. If the level of this protein is reduced, it indicates that the cells are no longer behaving in an organised fashion and are preparing to disperse by pulling away from each other. This is an indication that a tumour is becoming an invasive cancer.

Dr. McCann believes that detecting an altered profile for alpha-T-catenin in patients diagnosed with bladder cancer can help identify the subset of these patients that are high risk for developing the invasive form of this disease in the future. Using tissue microarray technology and sophisticated image analysis software, levels of this protein in thousands of tiny tissue sections are compared visually.

“This is really exciting research, as we are comparing the levels of alpha –T-catenin from different patients to see if there is a pattern that can tell us which patients need to be more closely monitored” said Dr. McCann. “Currently, we have samples donated by 350 patients being treated at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin” she added.

This research project typifies the synergies that are created though collaborative research between scientists and clinicians. Dr Amanda McCann and her team work closely with Professor Elaine Kay, Consultant Histopathologist in Beaumont Hospital and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and Professor John Fitzpatrick, Consultant Urologist and Professor of Surgery, UCD and the Mater Misericordiae Hospital.

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