‘Groundbreaking’ prostate cancer screening trial could cut deaths by 40%

'Groundbreaking' prostate cancer screening trial could cut deaths by 40%

Methods of screening men for prostate cancer will be trialled to save thousands of lives in the UK each year.

Experts have hailed the £42m project called Transform as “a pivotal moment in the history of prostate cancer research”.

Despite the fact that an estimated 12,000 lives a year are lost to prostate cancer, according to Cancer Research UK, there is currently no screening programme.

Previous trials that used prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests and biopsies to screen for the disease showed the method prevented between 8% and 20% of deaths, depending on screening regularity, according to Prostate Cancer UK.

The charity said Transform has the potential to reduce deaths by 40%.

Patients will be recruited from GP practices across the country from next year to take part in the project.

The first phase will involve about 12,500 men and will assess the likes of PSA blood tests, genetic testing and a faster version of the MRI scan – known as a Prostagram – against current NHS diagnostic methods to see which performs best.

Up to 300,000 men will be involved in the trial’s second stage which will test the most promising options based on the results of the first stage.

The team will follow up with patients over at least a decade to track how screening impacted the length and quality of their lives.

At least one in 10 patients invited to take part will be black. This is because black men carry double the risk of developing prostate cancer than other men.

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Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “We know that earlier diagnosis saves lives, but previous trials haven’t been able to prove that enough men would be saved using PSA tests alone, while they did show that these old screening methods caused significant unnecessary harm to men.

“We must now prove that there are better ways to find aggressive prostate cancer that will save even more lives while causing less harm.”

As well as saving lives in the UK, Dr Hobbs said the trial could also “change practice globally”, with the number of lives saved potentially reaching tens of thousands each year.

He added: “This is a pivotal moment in the history of prostate cancer research and we’re proud to be leading the way and to be supporting some of the best researchers in the world to make it happen.”

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The project has also been backed by £16m of funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), as well as £1.5m from Movember and support from the Freddie Green and Family Charitable Foundation.

Health minister Andrew Stephenson said: “Screening for the most common cancer in men is complex but we’re backing groundbreaking trials like this to improve diagnostic processes and save thousands more lives.

“Alongside backing cutting-edge research, we are helping more people get diagnosed earlier for cancer and other conditions by rolling out additional tests, checks and scans at 160 locations across England through our community diagnostics centres programme.”