Funded by the 2014 Wine Celebration Fund-A-Need
Bladder cancer patients experience widely variable clinical outcomes. Some are cured of their disease with surgery alone, whereas others require chemotherapy, and only about half of individuals who receive chemotherapy benefit from it. These differences in clinical behavior are almost certainly based in differences in cancer biology, and the overall goal of our bladder cancer research program is to deeply define them so that optimal therapeutic approaches can be offered to each patient.
We recently discovered that bladder cancers can be grouped into “intrinsic subtypes” that are remarkably similar to the ones that exist in breast cancers. One of the bladder cancer subtypes (“p53-like”) is similar to “luminal A” breast cancers, and like them, tend to be resistant to chemotherapy and metastasize to the bone. Their most distinguishing feature is that they contain large numbers of normal cells (termed “fibroblasts”) that are being implicated in drug resistance and bone metastasis in laboratory models of other types of cancer (including breast cancer). In this project we will examine further whether the p53-like tumors are chemo-resistant and metastatic to bone by analyzing several additional cohorts of patients treated with chemotherapy in clinical trials. Then we will directly examine the contributions of the fibroblasts to chemoresistance and bone metastasis in laboratory models. Our goal is to use the information to distinguish patients who will benefit from chemotherapy from those who will not. And by studying the biological mechanisms influenced by the fibroblasts, we should be able to identify new, more effective therapies for patients with chemoresistant bladder cancers.