Urinary bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the United States. Last year nearly 20,000 people died from bladder cancer. African-Americans are less likely to get bladder cancer than other races. However, African Americans with bladder cancer are more likely to die from bladder cancer than other racial/ethnic groups. Dr. Lily Wu, UCLA, was awarded a new cancer research study to study bladder cancer in African-Americans in order to better identify the pathways in which Bladder cancer differentially impacts African Americans. Results from the study aim to inform and guide future bladder cancer treatments.


Many new cancer treatments are becoming specific and personalized for the cancer type and person. Most older cancer drugs go after both healthy cells and cancer cells so specialized individual treatments aim to avoid healthy cells optimizing the health of the person in newer cancer treatments. Some of these newer treatment advances are based on genetics. As our genes can determine our eye color or hair color, genes are also crucial for health. Different ethnic groups are more likely to have different diseases based on their genes. For instance, patients of European descent are more likely to have a condition called cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disorder that can cause a shutdown of the lungs and digestive system. Thus, Dr. Wu is studying if there are genes in African-Americans that make bladder cancer lead to worse outcomes.

(Courtesy Photo) 

Dr. Wu’s study is called the University of California Minority Patient-Derived Xenograft Trial and Development Center (UCaMP). The UCaMP study will examine treatment options by looking at cells from patients with bladder cancer including African-Americans. Many studies do not look at African-Americans with bladder cancer. Dr. Wu and her collaborators will collect tumor samples from patients with bladder cancer at the Greater LA VA HealthCare and the UCLA Medical Centers. With these samples, researchers can test approved, cancer-fighting drugs. They will also test if these new drugs work for African-Americans

This research project is essential for all patients with bladder cancer. It is especially important for Black patients who are more likely to die from bladder cancer. Finding new treatments for bladder cancer can help reduce the adverse side effects of chemotherapy and lower the chance of getting cancer treatments that might not work for them. Dr. Wu stated: “these are exciting times and it is an honor to be leading a project that can bring more hope to patients with bladder cancer and reduce the disparities for African-Americans.”


  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-29987-2 (Racial difference in bladder cancer)
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30643250 (tumor hypoxia and aggression in cancer type.