Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found that a simple test that can be administered and read in the doctor's office was three times more effective than a conventional laboratory test for detecting bladder cancer.
In a study published in the February 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers tested the NMP22 tumor marker assay in 1,331 patients at high risk for bladder cancer. Researchers determined through cystoscopy that 79 of the 1,331 patients examined had bladder cancer. The NMP22 assay was positive in 55 percent of the cases (44 out of 79 cases) while the conventional cytology test detected about 16 percent of malignancies (12 out of 76 cases).
This demonstrated that the NMP22 test was significantly more sensitive than cytology, or the conventional laboratory test, says H. Barton Grossman, M.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Urology and the study's lead author.
"Our challenge is to improve the detection of bladder cancer," says Grossman. "This test is easy and may save lives."
He cautions, however, that NMP22 should not be used alone to detect bladder cancer, but should be combined with bladder examination (cystoscopy) to provide an accurate diagnosis.
"No single procedure is 100 percent sensitive, so a combination of procedures is recommended," Grossman says.
The findings are seen as an advance in screening for bladder cancer, Grossman says, which is the fifth most common cancer in the United States. Five-year survival is 95 percent for cancer caught early, but it is much lower for the 25 percent of bladder tumors that are advanced when first diagnosed. It is estimated that more than 60,000 people living in the U.S. will be diagnosed with bladder cancer this year; 13,000 are predicted to die of the disease.