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A new approach to bladder cancer research

Thursday 07 May 2020

For the Queensland Bladder Cancer Initiative (QBCI), led by Dr Ian Vela and Associate Professor Elizabeth Williams, their bladder cancer research is about improving the survival rates and care of patients who are diagnosed with the disease.

While they continue their research in establishing a method to reliably predict responses to patient treatments before patients go on medication, with the goal of improving outcomes, they are also focussed on raising the profile of bladder cancer in the community and improving education for patients and their families.

"The QBCI is really an overarching project that has many different facets. We're looking at clinical projects, and we're looking at how currently available information contributes to patient understanding and patient care from the perspective of people diagnosed with bladder cancer and their carers," Dr Vela said.

Another key area for the QBCI team is translational research, a type of medical research that focusses on translating basic science discoveries from the laboratory 'bench' into the clinic 'patient bedside'.

"We are also focused on translational research looking at new technologies to try and predict who may or may not respond to different therapies before we give them to the patients," Dr Vela said.

"The translational project is really looking at growing those cancers from individual patients in the lab and then attempting to predict whether or not they respond to therapies before we give them."

Continued funding support from the PA Research Foundation will allow the QBCI team to drill down on the data collected from their initial experiments with the goal of improved patient outcomes and advancing their work.

The support of the PA Research Foundation has been crucial to the success of the QBCI.

"From the bladder cancer perspective, it's been absolutely vital. We wouldn't have had any bladder cancer program without PA Foundation because unfortunately bladder cancer is traditionally been very poorly funded," Dr Vela said.

"Without PA Foundation funding Australia would actually have lost its biggest bladder cancer research effort which would have been a terrible shame, because there is starting to be a lot of activity now around the world and we want Australia to be part of that cutting edge research so that our patients get to benefit early," A/Prof Williams said.

"I think that it's about finding something that donors feel connected with and so that's fantastic if it's bladder cancer for us. But it could be anything that happens on this campus. It's got to be the right match for them – we are passionate about what we're doing and we like to think that the donors are passionate about what they're donating to. Wherever those donations go it's going to make an impact."

Both Vela and Williams agreed that they were blessed to work at the PA Hospital campus, where their research is co-located with clinicians, patients and the hospital itself, as it enables them to collect tissue samples and bloods and bring them straight to the lab for analysis immediately after donation.

"(It's also) the culture of the PA Hospital where people are embracing the idea that research is pivotal to an improving clinical outcomes and even if they're the people who are the coal face treating and not actively doing research they're still supportive of it," A/Prof Williams said.