The incidence of human bladder cancer has greatly increased over the last few decades, with more than 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone, and now represents the 4th most common malignancy in men and the 10th most common in women, according to background information in the article. At present, about 20 percent of patients die each year, but when the disease is diagnosed and treated in the early stage, the chances of survival are good, indicating the importance of a timely and accurate diagnosis.
Established approaches for detecting bladder cancer are either invasive and costly or have limited sensitivity, highlighting the need for the development of a noninvasive, reliable, and simple test to increase the rate of detection of bladder cancer. Among the markers investigated for this purpose has been telomerase (a certain enzyme) activity in urine.
Maria Aurora Sanchini, M.Sc., of Morgagni-Pierantoni Hospital, Forl, Italy, and colleagues conducted a study to define the diagnostic accuracy of different telomerase activity cutoff values in terms of sensitivity and specificity. The study included 218 men (84 healthy individuals and 134 patients at first diagnosis of histologically confirmed bladder cancer), recruited between March 2003 and November 2004 in Italy. Urine telomerase activity was determined using a highly sensitive telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) assay. Urine samples were processed for cytological (cell) diagnosis and TRAP assay. The diagnosis of bladder cancer was based on bioptic and cystoscopic examinations (direct visual examination of the urinary tract). The performance of the TRAP assay to detect urine telomerase activity was compared to urine cytology as an aid to early cancer detection.