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Tumor microbiome and immune profiles as predictors of treatment response in high-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (MIT-BC Study)

20th national competition for scientific and technical research

Personalized therapy, immunotherapy and cancer

Senior Researcher : Nuria Malats Riera y Ravid Straussman

Research Centre or Institution : Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncológicas. Madrid y el Weizman Institute of Science. Rehovot


Groundbreaking studies have found interactions between the abundance and composition of the microbiome and various cancer types. The microbiome has been shown to play a role in tumor initiation and progression through direct effects on tumor cells and indirect effects through manipulation of the immune system. In addition, it has been demonstrated that the microbiome has a predictive value for response to immunological cancer treatment and for survival.  

The bladder and lower urinary tract have traditionally been considered a sterile environment, however findings from recent years indicated that they also have their own microbial community. This relatively new discovery raises questions about the role of the urinary microbiome in the development and progression of bladder cancer, as well as its response to treatment.

 Our project aims to answer some of these questions by characterizing the profile of the microbiome in high-grade non-muscle invasive bladder cancer, a subgroup of aggressive bladder cancer, but poorly studied and with a high healthcare cost. Using retrospective and prospective studies, we want to compare the urinary microbiome and the immune composition of this type of cancer in patients before and after receiving BCG, the standard immune-based treatment for this type of tumor. The final goal is to identify predictive biomarkers of response to treatment and design new clinical trials.

 As this is an emerging field of study, in this first year we are optimizing techniques and protocols for sample collection and identification of microorganisms in an environment with low microbial biomass such as the urinary tract, as well as understanding the impact of the key elements on the experimental design. In parallel, we are designing the longitudinal prospective study for which we have established collaborations with hospitals in Spain and Israel. The study has been approved by the ISCIII Ethics Committee. This first technical phase of the project is very important to maximize the potential of this study.

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