Thousands of men’s lives could be saved, as a major new prostate cancer screening trial is set to get under way in the UK, backed by £42 million from the government and Prostate Cancer UK.
The first-of-its-kind trial, called TRANSFORM, will use innovative screening methods such as MRI scans to detect prostate cancer, and will include hundreds of thousands of men across the country.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK and has no screening programme. It usually has no symptoms until it has grown large and may be more difficult to treat, and around 12,000 men die each year as a result. Screening for prostate cancer could identify these men earlier, before their cancer spreads.
The trial has the potential to see new screening methods give more accurate results than the current blood tests, which can miss some cancers and often suggest prostate cancer when no cancer exists. Crucially, screening could also spot the disease even when no symptoms are displayed.
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: "Cancer survival rates continue to improve in the UK, with the disease being diagnosed at an earlier stage more often. But more must be done. Our hope is that this funding will help to save the lives of thousands more men through advanced screening methods that can catch prostate cancer as early as possible."
Laura Kerby, Chief Executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: "12,000 men die of prostate cancer each year and it’s the most common cancer that doesn’t have a national screening programme.It’s about time that changed. That’s why we’re launching our biggest and most ambitious trial ever. It will finally give us the answers we need to develop a routine testing system and save thousands of men each year. Prostate Cancer UK’s unique focus and expertise made us the only organisation that could really deliver this paradigm-shifting trial, and we’re delighted that the government has backed our vision to revolutionise diagnosis."
One in 4 black men will develop prostate cancer - double the risk of other men. Therefore, to ensure the trial helps reduce their risk of dying from this disease, 1 in 10 men invited to participate will be black men. Participating men in the screening trial will be aged 50 to 75, with black men eligible from the lower age range of 45 to 75.
Men at higher risk of prostate cancer due to age and ethnicity will be recruited through their GP practice and invited to a screening visit. More than 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK on average - that’s 144 men every day. Around 490,000 men are currently living with and after prostate cancer.
£16 million will be invested by the government for the trial through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Prostate Cancer UK, who have led the development of the trial, will provide £26 million. The trial is due to start in spring 2024 with recruitment likely to begin in autumn 2024.