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What’s next for bladder cancer research?

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The Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute recently announced a joint effort with the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) to fund up to two awards totaling $100,000 for young scientists. As part of the announcement, the Institute's director, David McConkey, Ph.D., gave us his thoughts on recent bladder cancer advances and ongoing research.

Recent advances, says McConkey, include the FDA approval of the immunotherapy drug atezolizumab for bladder cancer patients whose disease worsens after receiving chemotherapy. Scientists have recently charted the genomic characteristics of some rare bladder tumors, in addition to muscle-invasive and nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancers. Such characterization helps create a genomic blueprint of these cancers to help pathologists more easily identify them. The blueprints, says McConkey, also give scientists clues to the behavior of certain tumors, sorting out which ones may be more aggressive and need different therapies.

McConkey says that bladder cancer scientists also are working to identify genetic characteristics of patients who may be cured by chemotherapy alone, potentially avoiding surgery to remove the bladder. He expects that other immunotherapy drugs that work through the same mechanisms as atezolizumab may soon be approved by the FDA to treat bladder cancer, and scientists are looking for genetic or molecular characteristics of patients more likely to respond to them.