A Spotlight for Detecting Cancer

Could finding cancer be as simple as flipping a switch?


Could finding cancer be as simple as flipping a switch? For the most fatal form of bladder cancer, it may be.

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With funding from the pharmaceutical company Photocure, J. Stephen Jones, MD, Chairman of the Department of Regional Urology at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, and a multicenter team have found a way to turn on a searchlight in your bladder, almost literally.

In the past, surgeons could remove only the tumors they saw, which meant tumors that blended into the smooth bladder wall went untouched. With this new approach, called fluorescence cystoscopy, Dr. Jones and his cohorts can shine a fluorescent light into the bladder and turn those otherwise invisible tumors bright pink.

“It’s like a black light at a party — only for us, it’s blue,” says Dr. Jones.

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The result? Twenty-five percent greater tumor visibility for surgeons and 15 percent to 20 percent fewer readmissions for follow-up surgery for patients. The findings, part of a study first reported in November 2010’s Journal of Urology, are especially good news for people who have high-grade bladder cancer, the most rapidly fatal urological cancer in the country. Left untreated, most patients die within two years.

Dr. Jones also has performed research into a novel way to diagnose prostate cancer, highlighted in the September 2011 issue of Urology. He and his team found they could improve on the notoriously unreliable prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer by isolating elements of the urine that can rule out prostate cancer in people with inconclusive PSAs.

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