Bladder cancer could soon be detected by a urine test which may halve the number of people needing invasive cystoscopies.
More than 300,000 cystoscopies are performed every year in England and involve inserting a camera into the bladder via the urethra to look for signs of the disease.
People suffering with blood in their urine often undergo the procedure to determine if it is caused by a tumor, an infection or another cause, such as urinary tract stones.
The majority of tests turn out not to be bladder cancer, but there is no alternative way to be sure except for a cystoscopy, which can have a long wait time and be stressful for the patient.
Doctors at the University of Birmingham and Cancer Research UK developed a test designed to pick up DNA that has been shed by a tumor and is circulating in the urine.
It looks at 23 different genes and registers a positive test if it identifies mutated versions of DNA associated with a tumor and not healthy cells.
In the study, researchers used the test to analyze urine from 165 bladder cancer patients and it successfully detected the disease in 144 of them (87 per cent).
The researchers believe that using the urine test in a hematuria clinic could reduce the number of patients requiring a cystoscopy by at least 45 per cent.
“The test has the potential to detect new cases of bladder cancer with high sensitivity and specificity, and could reduce reliance on cystoscopy in the hematuria clinic setting,” the researchers wrote in their paper, published in the European Urology Oncology journal.
Richard Bryan, the lead researcher, told The Telegraph: “Even though cystoscopy is good at detecting bladder cancer, it’s invasive and time consuming for patients and the NHS, so we need a better way to diagnose patients.
“In the future, our test could be an easier way to get people with bladder cancer diagnosed faster, and could mean that tens of thousands of cystoscopies on healthy patients can be avoided each year.”
The prototype will now be turned into a proper, easy-to-administer test and the researchers hope to run a clinical trial of its effectiveness and aim to ultimately get it used by the NHS.
Iain Foulkes, the executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said: “These findings show that this urine test could help the NHS diagnose bladder cancer more easily. Early detection of cancer is key for improving patient outcomes and research like this could help identify the patients that need treatment soonest, while easing the pressures of diagnostic procedures on the NHS.
“We look forward to seeing how the test performs in the next clinical trial.”