New biomarker may help personalize bladder cancer treatment

Researchers from Mount Sinai in New York have pinpointed a new biomarker that may ultimately provide individualized treatment in patients with an aggressive form of bladder cancer.

According to the study, published in the July issue of Oncogene, two microRNA activity-based biomarkers discovered by researchers can provide critical information about the prognoses for patients with p53-like bladder cancer.

“p53-like bladder cancers are generally resistant to standard chemotherapy treatment, and prognoses for these patients are so varied,” said Jun Zhu, PhD, Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai in a news release. “Our computational methods not only provided us with deeper insights into the cellular mechanisms underlying this elusive type of bladder cancer, but also reveal the potential of microRNAs as therapeutic targets in treating it.”

Zhu and colleagues created the computational method—ActMiR—prior to this study. The technique is able to infer microRNA (miRNA) activities that play a central role in the development of cancer tumors and their progression. They applied ActMir to the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) bladder cancer data set and found the activities of miR-106b-5p and miR-532-3p as “potential prognostic markers” of the p53-like subtype.

The team then validated its findings against three independent bladder cancer data sets. Zhu et al. noted that higher miR-106b-5p activity was connected to better survival rates during their validation.

“Altogether, our results suggest that miR-106b-5p activity can categorize p53-like bladder tumors into more and less-favorable prognostic groups, which provides critical information for personalizing treatment option for p53-like bladder cancers,” authors wrote.

While the findings are a positive step, authors noted, there is a long road ahead before personalized treatment options can be developed for patients with p53-like bladder cancer.

“Molecular subtypes of bladder cancer have provided tremendous insight into the biology of bladder cancer, but have had limited clinical impact to date,” said Matthew Galsky, MD, Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai in the statement. “One potential reason is the varying prognoses within subgroups and the lack of treatment options informed by molecular subtypes. Our study suggests that further dissecting the biology of these cancer subtypes is necessary to ultimately translate this information to better care of our patients.”