GP practices to recruit men for prostate cancer screening trial next year

A new prostate cancer screening trial is set to begin next year, which will recruit men at higher risk via their GP practice.

(Photo: sturti/Getty Images)

The trial, which is backed by £16m government funding and £26m from Prostate Cancer UK, will be run by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and Prostate Cancer UK.

Prostate Cancer UK said the TRANSFORM randomised controlled trial would involve hunderds of thousands of men and be the biggest trial in prostate cancer screening for 20 years. It will compare the most promising tests that are available, including MRI scans, to provide evidence about the best way to screen for the disease.

One in ten of those invited will be Black men because this group has double the risk of developing prostate cancer than those from other ethnic backgrounds. Men taking part in the trial will be aged 50 to 75, with Black men eligible to participate between the ages of 45 and 75.

Prostate cancer screening trial

On average more than 52,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and around 12,000 die from the disease each year. Prostate Cancer UK said it is the most common cancer that does not currently have a national screening programme.

The trial is due to get underway next spring, with recruitment of men likely to begin in the autumn.

Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Laura Kerby said the trial would 'finally give us the answers we need to develop a routine testing system and save thousands of men each year'. 

She added: '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.'

The UK National Screening Committee (NSC) said it was 'very excited' by the trial. It said there was currently no screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK because the PSA blood test was 'not nearly accurate enough' to be used as a primary screening test.

Improving diagnosis

A statement on the UK NSC website said: 'The PSA test misses lots of prostate cancers that might benefit from treatment and PSA levels can be raised when there is no prostate cancer present. The PSA test also detects disease that would not cause problems in a man’s lifetime, leading to many cases of overtreatment and serious side effects.'

The UK NSC chair Professor Sir Mike Richards said: 'To make any positive recommendation, the UK NSC would need to see high quality peer-reviewed research that demonstrates that a screening strategy would improve prostate cancer outcomes while minimising serious harms such as overdiagnosis, associated overtreatment and side effects.

'We have worked with Prostate Cancer UK on the trial design to maximise the chance that it will provide evidence that will help the UK NSC make a recommendation. The committee is very pleased that there is a major focus on getting new evidence in this critical area for men’s health.'

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.'

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