Building a Canadian Translational Bladder Cancer Research Network

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From: Canadian Urological Association Journal(Vol. 14, Issue 10)
Publisher: Canadian Urological Association
Document Type: Report
Length: 3,095 words
Lexile Measure: 1510L

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Bladder cancer is poised to join the precision oncology pantheon, presenting a broad array of exciting research avenues to improve current therapeutic management and patient quality of life. Emerging systemic and intravesical therapies include immune checkpoint inhibition, (1) gene therapies, (2) fibroblast growth factor receptor (FCFR)-targeted therapies, (3) and novel antibody drug conjugates. (4) As routine molecular profiling for these and other therapies becomes standard-of-care for bladder cancer, Canadian researchers have the opportunity to be world leaders in precision oncology, turning molecular insight into advanced therapeutic outcomes. Success in this complex undertaking will require coordination and cooperation across disciplines, institutions, and provinces.

With a goal of fostering collaborative translational research across Canada, the inaugural translational forum was held virtually on April 4, 2020. Organized in partnership with Bladder Cancer Canada (BCC) and the Canadian Urological Association (CUA), the meeting brought together clinicians, basic scientists, trainees, and patient advocates. Participants discussed ongoing research, identified key knowledge gaps, and formalized coalescing research themes that build on Canadian strengths and foster multi-center collaboration. Participants prioritized and built teams around four novel and interconnected themes: 1) novel biomarkers, 2) immune-oncology, 3) epigenetics, and 4) microbiome. These collective efforts have been formalized in the newly minted Canadian Bladder Cancer Research Network (CBCRN). Herein, we present meeting highlights.

Setting the stage

David Berman (Queen's University) introduced the forum by highlighting the benefits of collaborative translational team initiatives and describing the steps from the initial conceptualization of this forum to its realization.

Peter Black (University of British Columbia) presented opportunities to join forces and leverage Canadian strengths in bladder cancer translational research. He noted Canadian research capabilities, including advanced in vivo modelling, (5) genomics infrastructure, (6,7) liquid biopsy programs, (8) expertise in tumor immunology, (9-14) and epigenetics, (15) and established biospecimen repositories, (16) as well as a strong track record of linking these translational resources with investigator-initiated trials. (17, 18) The growth in bladder cancer research in Canada is clearly evident from pioneering new research findings and a growing cohort of Canadian researchers with a natural inclination to collaborate. A major hurdle to further growth is the lack of funding for bladder cancer research. High-quality, collaborative research can overcome this hurdle by attracting a broader group of funders into the field. Funding agencies are aware that bladder cancer has been historically underfunded, but the responsibility rests with the bladder cancer research community to develop integrated, multicenter teams that can develop compelling and competitive research proposals. Bringing researchers with common interests together into working groups is the most direct path to achieve these goals.

As highlighted by Wassim Kassouf (McGill University), the tremendous depth and breadth of clinical trials in bladder across Canada (Table 1) represent a resource of biospecimens with clinical annotation for translational research. The present focus of clinical trials is dominated by the investigation of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) across different stages of disease and in combination with other therapies.

In the non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) setting, trials in Canada and abroad primarily evaluate...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A641421363