Using Mitochondrial DNA Mutations to Monitor Bladder Cancer

Mitochondrial research is crucial to improve our understanding of many medical conditions due to the important role of mitochondria within the body. This was highlighted in a recent WCMR Science Seminar by PhD student Youssef Mohamed who talked to use about his research that involves using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations to monitor bladder cancer progression and reoccurrence. Here, Youssef tells us more.

Youseff Mohamed is pictured with Dr Anna Smith who chaired the meeting.

Why bladder cancer?

Bladder cancer is the most common urinary tract cancer, with 10,300 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year. Furthermore, 5,600 people die from bladder cancer each year, which equates to 15 deaths per day in the United Kingdom.

Problems with bladder cancer diagnosis and surveillance?

The current diagnostic test requires cystoscopy, a procedure to visualise the inside of the bladder, which is invasive, painful, uncomfortable and time consuming. This requires lifelong monitoring for many patients making it one of the most expensive cancers to manage.

The major clinical problem is the very high risk of recurrence within 2-5 years. This is linked with the possibility of stage progression to muscle invasive cancer which carries a high mortality risk.

What is the nature of my research project?

My research project involves investigating a unique translational opportunity of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Tumour cells are readily shed into urine, suggesting a urine sample could be used for non-invasive testing to detect bladder cancer recurrence using mtDNA. We therefore propose to identify a tumour biomarker that could be used to detect tumour cells within urine.

Are the outcomes promising?

We discovered that mtDNA mutations could help in tracing recurrence in 70% of the cohort population. The next step is to expand and recruit more patients, with the hope that by the end of the study this testing could be translated into a routine clinic investigation. Our goal is to help avoid the need for cystoscopy and extend life expectancy in people diagnosed with bladder cancer.