May 25, 2024

Methods of screening men for prostate cancer will be trialled in a bid to save thousands of lives in the UK each year, in what has been hailed by experts as a “pivotal moment”.

The £42m project, known as Transform, will compare various screening methods with current NHS diagnostic processes, which can include blood tests, physical examinations and biopsies.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease without a screening programme, with an estimated 12,000 lives lost to it each year in the UK.

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

Transformation has the potential to reduce deaths by 40%, the charity said.

It is also hoped that the research will help men avoid harm from potentially unnecessary biopsies and treatment.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “We know that earlier diagnosis saves lives, but previous trials failed to prove that enough men would be saved by 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.”

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

The second phase of the trial, involving up to 300,000 men, will test the most promising options from phase one of the trial.

Initial results from Transform are expected in three years.

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Researchers aim to make the trial as accessible as possible, recruiting patients through general practitioners across the UK from next year.

At least one in 10 patients invited to participate will be black as men of that ethnicity are twice as likely to be diagnosed as other men.

Hobbs said the trial could also “change practice worldwide” with the number of lives saved potentially reaching tens of thousands each year.

He added: “This is a defining moment in the history of prostate cancer research and we are proud to lead the way and to support some of the best researchers in the world to make it happen.”

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