Bladder Cancer Briefs March 8, 2023

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BCAN Interview with 2021 Young Investigator Awardee, Brendan Guercio

BCAN recently talked with Brendan Guercio, MD, a recipient of a 2021 BCAN Young Investigator Award (YIA). Dr. Guercio talked about the preliminary findings of the research project he conducted funded by BCAN.

Could you tell us a little about the research you conducted as part of your BCAN 2021 Young Investigator Award?

Using the award funding that BCAN generously provided, we started a study looking at patient dietary habits at the time that they were starting immunotherapy for either bladder cancer or upper tract urothelial cancer. We collected specimens so that we could look at characteristics of their gut bacteria.

Our hypothesis was that because gut bacteria have been shown to be a potentially important factor in determining people’s responses to immunotherapy, their diet might also have significant impact on the bacteria that live in their gut. All of this is tied to how much patients benefit from immunotherapy.

Could you explain what gut bacteria is and why you think it’s important to your research?

When bacteria come up in medicine, we think of them as a bad thing we have to treat with medicines. It turns out that there are lots of good bacteria that live in our guts that are just a normal part of our health. We try to make sure we have the right “bugs” living in our gut and also making sure that we are feeding them the right thing.

Although it’s preliminary, what do you want bladder cancer patients to know about your research?

An early signal suggests that fiber may be helpful for people who are starting immunotherapy for bladder cancer. We know that it’s a little too early to say if the signal we saw is valid, but we do know that generally, fiber is part of most healthy diets.

Do you think that the type of research you did is likely to be funded by other organizations?

I think that some sources are interested in funding this type of research, but groups like BCAN are really the best and most interested. Sometimes it is hard to get funding for these sorts of studies because companies usually aren’t going to make money from finding out that dietary habits can change cancer. There might be less funding out there from traditional sources like industry and pharmaceutical companies. Having organizations like BCAN that are motivated to really find out the answers that are important to patients is something that researchers like me definitely appreciate greatly.

What would you like bladder cancer patients and caregivers to know about the future of bladder cancer research?

I think I would want them to know that having and going through treatment for bladder cancer can be scary, but that there are a lot of exciting advances happening in the field right now and that have happened in the past few years. Most of all, I’d want them to be a little encouraged and hopeful about the improvements in bladder cancer treatment – some have already happened are others are likely to happen too. I also encourage patients, if they feel comfortable, to participate in research studies like ours or others because it’s only by working with our patients that we make the most progress. This progress will hopefully help all bladder cancer patients in the future.

Resources for Patients and Families

Check out our Understanding Bladder Cancer and Nutrition page to learn more about eating healthily with bladder cancer.