November 13, 2012
|Dr. Karim Chamie|
In the upcoming months, UCLA will have five state-of-the art clinical trials open for enrollment for patients with “urothelial carcinoma” (the term for a cancer of bladder, ureter, or the inner lining of the kidney). These clinical trials span the spectrum of disease from early stage cancer to those where the cancer has spread to outside the bladder. In addition to the usual goals of improving life expectancy, these clinical trials were designed with another key feature in mind—improving quality of life for the patient. Some of the trials were designed to minimize the burden of having the cancer recur or progress to advanced disease, while others were directed towards organ preservation. While UCLA is renowned for its work in integrating newer and less invasive technologies such as robotic surgery and laser precision radiation therapy into cancer care, patients must still face the consequences of life-altering treatments as they travel the path to a cure.
Dr. Karim Chamie, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at UCLA, is looking to incorporate creative innovations which allow preservation of the kidney or bladder in patients being treated for urothelial cancers. “Advances in the operating room so far have allowed us to continue doing the same things to patients’ bodies, but with newer, smaller tools,” said Dr. Chamie. “While robotic surgery can make the incision smaller and can result in less pain and earlier return to work, patients will still have to deal with after effects—living life without a bladder or kidney. It’s not much different than having a newer, lighter hammer made out of titanium: It is still a hammer. What we have been trying to do at UCLA is change the way we treat this cancer.” As an example, six months ago, Dr. Chamie was the first in the world to instill a gel inside the bladder to help target radiation to the area of the cancer in an effort to avoid unnecessary radiation to surrounding healthy tissue. Dr. Chamie is now applying a similar technology to urothelial cancers of the kidney. Working closely with other centers as part of an international effort, UCLA researchers have helped co-develop a novel gel that can deliver chemotherapy to the site of the cancer without removing the kidney or exposing the patient to the side effects of chemotherapy. For patients who require intravenous chemotherapy, UCLA is opening a clinical trial that determines whether the cancer will respond to the chemotherapy in the first place, prior to receiving the drugs. Dr Chamie continues, “For too long, patients with urothelial cancers have had very limited, often toxic and life altering, options for treating their cancer. Now, with the availability of topical treatments and treatments that rely on the body’s own immune system for effect, we can offer them treatment options that cannot only extend their life but also to maintain their quality of life.”
If you or someone you know has urothelial carcinoma and are interested in participating in new and emerging therapies, make an appointment with a UCLA Urologist by calling (310) 794-7700.