Each year, around 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer – equating to 129 men a day.
It is the most common cancer in men, causing 11,000 deaths each year.
The new research study, led by the University of East Anglia and backed by national charities Prostate Cancer UK and Movember, opens at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) – which runs City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre – this month, and aims to provide more certainty about for men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer.
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The PUR (Prostate Urine Risk) study aims to pinpoint the degree of risk for the progression of the disease.
Mr Will Green, consultant urologist and principal investigator for the PUR study at NUH, said: “The dilemma for patients who are regarded as having ‘low risk’ prostate cancer is when to intervene.
“Most patients with low risk prostate cancer demonstrate a disease process with a slow progression, but some will progress unexpectedly and we need to identify them in the most efficient way possible.
"As prostate cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in men in the UK, this makes it even more important.”
At present, those men regarded as low risk as determined by something called the Gleason score – which is used to predict the level of aggressiveness of their cancer – typically enter ‘active surveillance’ and are monitored with regular blood tests and an annual MRI scan.
Most men under active surveillance will never need treatment, and evidence shows that if their cancer changes and they require treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy, they fare just as well as those treated at diagnosis.
Mr Green added: “However, prostate cancer is very complex and risk levels vary widely between each man.
“There is an urgent need for improvements in diagnosis and predicting outcomes for patients with prostate cancer. We want to minimise over-diagnosis and overtreatment while making sure men with more aggressive forms of the disease receive the treatment they need.
“In particular, we need more research into men who fall into the category of ‘intermediate risk’ – in between those with low-risk cancer and men who have aggressive prostate tumours.
“Following a pilot study in East Anglia, we are now recruiting patients for this further trial to show us which men considered at intermediate risk might require treatment more quickly, and which can be managed with active surveillance instead.”
Dr Hayley Luxton, Research Impact Manager at Prostate Cancer UK, said:
“We’re delighted to have supported this research with funding from Movember, which may provide a simple, non-invasive way of predicting the aggressiveness of prostate cancer without the need for biopsy.
“It’s important to confirm initial exciting findings in multi-site clinical trials and so this trial opening for recruitment in Nottingham is an important step forward for the PUR test. We hope that one day this could prevent men from undergoing unnecessary tests and treatments that cause more harm than good.
“We’re working hard to develop, fund and deliver large-scale clinical trials that will prove the potential of promising new tests like this one, and accelerate the pace at which they make earlier and more accurate diagnosis a reality for men with prostate cancer.”
Those taking part in the study will be asked to provide a urine sample using a ‘DIY’ sample pot at home, and then send the test kit off for analysis.
This analysis will include identification of biomarkers (signs of the disease).
NUH is one of a number of hospital trusts around the country validating initial test findings based on research from the University of East Anglia.