Project Spotlight

Our faculty are conducting research resulting in breakthroughs in cancer research. Their findings are publicized in high-impact journals, news media and textbooks. The following are brief summaries of selected research projects:

Clinical Trial: Dosing of Chemotherapy and Other Medication

Dr. Bruce Montgomery
Dr. Montgomery
Dr. Jonathan Wright
Dr. Wright

Clinical Trial of Rapamycin and Grapefruit Juice for Bladder Cancer
Funded by James Ewing Foundation of the Society of Surgical Oncology
Led by R. Bruce Montgomery, MD, and Jonathan Wright, MD, MS, FACS

Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer, and both locally advanced and metastatic disease are often fatal. The only effective chemotherapy for bladder cancer is Cisplatin-based regimens.  In fact, there has not been a new FDA approved medical treatment for bladder cancer in over 20 years. This is in part reflective of the lack of support for bladder cancer which ranks 21st in NIH funding.

However, Drs. Bruce Montgomery and Jonathan Wright are trying to change that.  Based on work out of Dr. Peter Nelson’s research laboratory, it has been discovered that cancer cells have mechanisms of resistance and some cells are able to survive the chemotherapy treatment. Research has shown that using Rapamycin, a medication which is used in renal transplantation, in addition to the standard chemotherapy treatments for bladder cancer may help to block the tumor’s defense mechanisms suppressing tumor growth and metastasis. Like all medications, Rapamycin is associated with side effects. Montgomery and Wright have come up with an innovative solution to this problem. They are running a clinical trial that has patients combine their dose of Rapamycin with drinking grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice naturally has specific chemicals that interact with the Rapamycin and allows patients to take a lower dose with the same therapeutic qualities.

This trial will help establish the proper dosing combinations for chemotherapy and Rapamycin, and help establish a novel therapy for the treatment and survival of those with bladder cancer.

Pathology Reports: Improving the Readability

Dr. John Gore
Dr. Gore

Improving the Readability of Pathology Reports for Common Urologic Cancers
Funded by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation
Led by John Gore, MD, MS

When patients are diagnosed with cancer, information about their diagnosis and treatment can be confusing and overwhelming. Medical documents often use complex medical terminology, making information difficult for patients to interpret. Research led by Dr. John Gore is focused upon improving the readability of pathology reports for common urologic cancers (prostate, bladder kidney, and testicular) by designing patient-centered versions of these documents.

After a patient’s tissue is removed through a biopsy, a pathologist analyzes the sample and determines whether there is a diagnosis of cancer. The pathogist prepares a report of their findings. This report contains information that determines a patients prognosis and treatment options. Gore’s team conducted a partnered process with bladder cancer experts and bladder cancer patients to present the most important elements of a bladder biopsy pathology report using patient-centered layouts and language. The product of this work is currently being pilot tested at UW toward the goal that patients may be better informed and involved in their cancer treatment process.

Early Detection: Measuring Protein Markers

Dr. Alvin Liu
Dr. Liu

Measuring Protein Markers Related to Bladder Cancer
Funded by the National Institutes of health
Led by Alvin Liu, PhD

Many superficial bladder cancers can be successfully treated. However, a certain percentage will recur with invasive features and these need to be detected early to improve patient survival. Dr. Alvin Liu and his team are developing less invasive strategies to identify early markers of bladder cancers.

Liu’s bladder cancer biomarker research involves measuring protein markers secreted from tumors and multiple RNA transcripts from cell types of the tumors released into urine instead of relying on biopsies. Then, they analyze the urine to find protein and RNA transcripts to find genes specific to bladder cancer. Once the team has isolated RNA and proteins, these samples are saved in a biorepository that can be used for more research in the future. The goal of this project is to find better and less invasive ways to predict bladder cancer recurrence. By using biomarkers located in the urine, this team is working to improve the outcomes and survival of those with bladder cancer.