WATCH: Why Dr. Andrew Hsieh is optimistic about the future of treatment for bladder cancer

Physician-scientist aims to make a difference for patients with 'understudied' cancer
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center physician-scientist Dr. Andrew Hsieh talks with Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Tom Lynch about his research on bladder cancer. His team is kicking off new studies into the role of protein synthesis in cancer and potential new drugs and therapies that can benefit patients with bladder cancer. Video by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Though common, bladder cancer has been the focus of relatively little research. Dr. Andrew Hsieh hopes to change that. The physician-scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is kicking off a new project to learn how a fundamental cell process promotes the growth of aggressive bladder tumors. He hopes that the insights he gains open a door to a new paradigm for treating patients with this cancer, which kills 20,000 people a year.

In this video, Hsieh talks with Fred Hutch President and Director Dr. Tom Lynch about his project, which is funded by a new grant from the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. & Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, and why he’s so hopeful about the future of treatment for this disease.

“Bladder cancer itself is a very significantly understudied and underfunded cancer compared to some of the other cancers that are being studied around the world,” Hsieh told Lynch. “So for us, we really think it presents to us not only a challenge, but a unique opportunity to make a difference in this field.”

Hsieh’s team at Fred Hutch studies the process of protein synthesis: that is, how cells work from DNA blueprints to build the molecular machines — proteins — that carry out most of the work of the body. They want to know how that process works in bladder cancer, so they can exploit it for treatment.

“We want to know how it works. We want to know how it is deregulated (or messed up) in cancer, in this case, bladder cancer,” Hsieh explained to Lynch. “And we want to take that information and use new second-generation, third-generation drugs to actually target the process of protein synthesis for the benefit of patients. And as a correlate, we also want to know which patients will actually benefit from these new types of therapies that are emerging.”

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