Thousands of prostate cancer deaths a year could be prevented by ‘pivotal’ new trial

By Staff 8 Min Read

The £42 million project, known as Transform, has been hailed as “a pivotal moment in the history of prostate cancer research” by experts. It could save up to 5,000 lives a year

A revolutionary £42million trial is set to be launched hailed as “a pivotal moment in the history of prostate cancer research”.

It is believed that this programme, sponsored by Prostate Cancer UK and known as Transform, could potentially save up to 5,000 men’s lives from the disease each year. Transform aims to replace the current NHS diagnostic process which includes physical examinations, blood tests and biopsies with innovative methods of screening.

The results will then help prevent harm to patients from needless biopsies and treatments since there is currently no official screening mechanism for prostate cancer within the UK. According to the charitable organisation funding the research, earlier trials using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests and biopsies showed that the routine prevented between eight per cent and 20 per cent of fatalities, depending on the frequency of the exams.

With fresh hopes stirred, it is predicted that Transform could decrease mortality from prostate cancer by as much as 40 per cent, a leap compared to previous methods. As per Cancer Research UK’s estimates, annually, prostate cancer claims the lives of 12,000 men in the UK, reports Bristol Live.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, has made a compelling case for change, stating: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer without a screening programme and it’s about time we changed that. 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.”

The groundbreaking Transform trial is set to kick off with around 12,500 men participating in its first phase. This initial stage will put various diagnostic approaches to the test, including PSA blood tests, genetic testing, and a rapid version of the MRI scan dubbed the Prostagram.

These methods will be compared against the current NHS diagnostic procedures to determine which is superior. The second phase of the trial will expand to include up to 300,000 men, further investigating the most promising techniques identified in the first phase.

Researchers are committed to a long-term evaluation, planning to monitor the participants over a span of at least ten years to observe the effects of screening on both the longevity and quality of their lives. With an aim to make the Transform trial as inclusive as possible, recruitment will begin next year through GPs across the entire UK.

A minimum of one in 10 patients invited to participate will be black, due to the doubled risk of developing prostate cancer in comparison to other men. Dr Hobbs, who is overseeing the trial, anticipates it could “change practice globally”, potentially saving tens of thousands of lives annually.

Dr Hobbs said: “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.”

Other leaders of the trial include Prof Hashim Ahmed, Prof Rakesh Heer both at Imperial College London, Prof Mark Emberton and Prof Caroline Moore at University College London, Prof Rhian Gabe at Queen Mary University of London, and Prof Ros Eeles at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.

Endowed with significant financial backing, including £16 million from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), £1.5 million from Movember and additional support from the Freddie Green and Family Charitable Foundation. The chief executive of NIHR, Prof Lucy Chappell, acknowledged the importance of the trial saying: “This important trial aims to prevent thousands of men dying each year through earlier diagnosis of one of the most common male cancers.”

Health Secretary, Andrew Stephenson, said: “Early detection through screening is crucial in improving the life chances of all men and is particularly important for black men, who are at double the risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Our investment in this Prostate Cancer UK trial maintains our commitment to funding research that saves and improves as many UK lives as possible.

“It’s fantastic to know that more people are surviving cancer in the UK than ever, but we know that’s partly down to early diagnosis. 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.”

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