Alterations in the extracellular matrix (ECM) microenvironment of the bladder, especially type I collagen, may contribute to bladder cancer progression, according to a new study.

Michael Brooks, MD, and collaborators at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston evaluated associations between mRNA expression of the COLI1A1 and COL1A2 genes—which encode type I collagen—with progression in a multi-center cohort of 189 patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). The cohort had a median age of 67 years and a median follow-up time of 4.8 years.

High COL1A1 and COL1A2 mRNA expression was significantly associated with poor progression-free and overall survival, Dr Brooks’ team reported online in Oncotarget.

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In an independent single-center cohort of 80 NMIBC patients, researchers conducted immunohistochemistry analyses of type I collagen protein expression and structure and found a significant association between type I collagen protein deposition and cancer progression. In particular, increased type I collagen protein expression near the tumor-ECM boundary was significantly associated with NMIBC progression, according to the investigators.

“Since type I collagen is one of the most abundant ECM components, these findings implicate a role for the stromal microenvironment in modulating invasive progression of NMIBC,” the researchers wrote.

They concluded that their findings “will open avenues to future functional studies to investigate ECM-tumor interaction as a potential therapeutic intervention to treat NMIBCs.”

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