Stanford Computer Predicts Cancer Molecule

Bladder cancer keratin 14 diagnostic test developed

(RxWiki News) If you want to know how bad your bladder cancer is, generally someone has to take a piece of it and send it to a pathologist to get an opinion. A new study shows a more accurate and less painful option may be in the works.

Using an advanced computer algorithm developed at Stanford University, researchers used the characteristics of two molecules normally found in healthy bladder cells. 

The computer worked backwards, combing thousands of online databases of proteins to find a correlation with a molecule that meant the opposite, malignancy.

"Ask your oncologist about keratin-14 analysis."

The two molecules, keratin-5 and keratin-20, were associated with normal bladder cells. In general, cancer cells look less and less like the parent tissue the more aggressive the cancer is. Consequently, the protein that the algorithm identified successfully, keratin-14, is found in the worst cases of bladder cancer.

Due to the location, bladder cancer is hard to detect early on, and accurate diagnostic tests that do not require samples are always a welcome development for both patient and doctor.

In the future, doctors should be able to confirm the presence of keratin-14 with a rapid test, and aggressively treat this variety before it becomes invasive or metastatic.

Irving L Weissman, M.D., and director of Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine was a senior author of the paper.

"Patients deserve to have an accurate opinion of what will happen to them after they have had surgery for bladder cancer, and this test will give the most accurate assessment to date," Dr. Weissman said. "Its simplicity should allow surgeons and oncologists to make better decisions, and patients to understand better how they should organize their lives. The simplicity of the test should make it easily affordable, and therefore not add to the burden of medical costs."

The results were confirmed both by analysis of pathological samples from patients with advanced bladder cancer, and the aggressiveness of bladder cancer expressing the protein keratin 14 was verified in animal studies on mice.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Weissman owns stock in Amgen and is a director of Stem Cells, Inc. All other authors of the study denied any financial conflict of interest.