A global consortium initiative on the association between dietary intake and the prevention of bladder cancer

About the supervisors: 

Maurice Zeegers is professor of Complex Genetics & Epidemiology. He is ranked among the top5 bladder cancer epidemiologist worldwide. He serves as head of CAPHRI and the department of Complex Genetics. His main interest is in Cancer Epidemiology and Nutrition and Genetics.

Anke Wesselius is PostDoc in Epidemiology at UM and the study manager of BLEND. She leads the Evidence Based Nutrition team at the department of Complex Genetics. Her main interest is in Cancer Epidemiology.

About the research group: 

The studentship will be embedded within the team of prof. dr. Maurice Zeegers. During the last decade Maurice and his team have built a strong research line on bladder cancer epidemiology with a specific emphasis on diet. This has led to over 70 publications on this topic. Although, the literature is still sparse, Maurice Zeegers and his team have concluded that some micronutrients in the diet such as vitamins C, E and selenium may play a preventive role in bladder carcinogenesis. They are currently pursuing this lead with two chemoprevention clinical trials and two case-control studies. Although other food products have been researched, so far the results remain inconclusive.

Work field of the proposed project: 
Cancer Epidemiology
Estimated duration: 
4 year
Scientific background: 

Our 2008 expert report for the World Health Organization, our 7 meta-analyses and the 2nd WCRF expert report all concluded that the accumulated evidence on the association between specific foods, nutrients, dietary patterns and the risk of bladder cancer is weak. This is surprising as diet is expected to play an important role in carcinogenesis because the bladder is an excretion organ. The most likely reason for this is that most previous studies have had insufficient sample size and thus lacked adequate statistical power for analyses on 1) individual food items instead of the more common but less detailed food groups, 2) for subgroup analyses and 3) for food-food interactions.

Main research question, subquestions and aim(s): 

The proposed research brings together the world’s data on diet and bladder cancer. In a unique collaboration, researchers from across the world have agreed to share their nutritional data with over 30.000 participants including over 10.000 bladder cancer patients.

Research design and methods: 

As a part of the USA National Cancer Institute Biomarker Bladder Cancer Consortium and with help of the International Bladder Cancer Network, literature searches and the professional network of the applicants, we have identified 26 case-control studies with at least 100 cases with bladder cancer. So far, 20 case-control studies (77%) from the USA, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, China and Japan have agreed to participate in the project and provide their data, 85% of which have already been transferred their data to us.

Research activities: 

Associations will be calculated for both frequency and variety in dietary consumption. The latter will be investigated by calculating Diet Diversity Scores that count the total number of different food items eaten at least once per fortnight in the common food categories. Odds ratios (OR) will be calculated using random effects logistic regression 

Expected results: 

This PhD projects aims to provide definite answers on which individual food products, nutrients, existing diets (both regionally and culturally defined) and adherence dietary recommendations (such as those from the WCRF) could influence bladder cancer risk. In addition, contemporary principle components and machine-learning algorithms will be used to identify novel explanatory dietary patterns. The results will be used to update existing dietary recommendations for the prevention of bladder cancer.

Competences the applicant needs to have or acquire for the project: 

Msc in Epidemiology and fluency in english

Internal contact: