David McConkey, PhD
The Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute awarded research grants to four projects that focus on bladder cancer treatments in women and how biology could offer new targets for cancer therapy.The Institute awards grants of $25,000 to $50,000. David McConkey, PhD, Director of the Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute, said it was not happenstance that some of the projects selected this year focus on women’s bladder cancer.
“Bladder cancer presents different clinical challenges in men and women. It is diagnosed more often in men, but on average, women develop more aggressive disease,” said Dr. McConkey. “Identifying the root causes of these discrepancies is a top priority for ongoing research. We also need to optimize our surgical approaches in men and women to ensure that we are obtaining the best possible outcomes.”
Sexual Health After Radical Cystectomy
Two of the studies receiving funding will address sexual health after radical cystectomy in women with bladder cancer.
Natasha Gupta, MD, a resident at the Brady Urological Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, is leading a project that will examine components of sexual health and dysfunction among women with bladder cancer who undergo radical cystectomy. Her study will explore the national practice patterns among urologists regarding these issues and the counseling patients receive.
A pilot study aimed at generating data on sexual outcomes among women with bladder cancer after radical cystectomy is being conducted by Sima Porten, MD, MPH, a member of the urologic oncology team at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and Sumeet Bhanvadia, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Urology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. Drs. Porten and Bhanvadia hope to develop quantitative measures of degrees of sexual dysfunction and quality-of-life issues. This information can be used to develop alternative treatment plans and prepare patients for what they may experience afterward.
Biologic Differences in Bladder Cells
Also receiving a grant, Margaret Knowles, PhD, of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, and Benjamin Hopkins, a PhD student at Leeds, have identified biologic differences between cultured normal cells from the bladders of men and women.
Dr. Knowles and her team have suggested that a complete explanation for the sex-related differences in bladder tumor behavior relates to genetic and epigenetic distinctions in the tumors and inherent differences in the biology of male and female bladders. Their goal is to make it possible for treatments to take into account any sex-related differences.
Urothelial Cells and Bladder Cancer Subtypes
Jenny Southgate, PhD, Director of the Jack Birch Unit for Molecular Carcinogenesis of the University of York in the United Kingdom, and Simon Baker, PhD, Deputy Director of the Jack Birch Unit, are examining how urothelial cells develop and how those cells have genetic qualities seen in some subsets of bladder cancer. Drs. Southgate and Baker will turn urothelial cell receptors “on and off” to discover what role they may have in tumor development. They believe their work will provide new insights into bladder cancer subtypes. ■