The biggest prostate cancer screening trial in decades is to start in the UK with the hope of saving the lives of thousands of men.
In a joint announcement, Prostate Cancer UK and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) unveiled plans for the TRANSFORM trial, which aims to use innovative screening methods, such as MRI scans, to detect prostate cancer.
The £42 million trial is backed by £26 million of funding from Prostate Cancer UK, with the remaining £16 million of funding invested by the Government through the National Institute of Health Research.
More than 52,000 men are diagnosed with the disease every year in the UK – 144 men each day – making it the most common cancer in men in the country. Around 490,000 men are currently living with and after prostate cancer. Even so, this type of cancer does not have a national screening programme.
The trial aims to recruit hundreds of thousands of men across the country in the autumn of 2024 to pinpoint the best tests that could identify the cancer before it spreads. Details on how to join will be released in the spring.
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. Most will be aged 50-75. Additionally, 1 in 10 men invited to participate will be Black men from a lower age range of 45-75. According to Prostate Cancer UK, 1 in every 4 black men will develop prostate cancer – "double the risk of other men" – and often at a younger age. The trial aims to address some of the inequalities that exist in prostate cancer diagnosis within this group and to help reduce their risk of dying from the disease.
Harness Innovative Screening Methods
The TRANSFORM trial has the potential to see "new screening methods give more accurate results" compared to the current blood tests, said the DHSC.
"Crucially, screening could also spot the disease even when no symptoms are displayed," the DHSC press release added.
Professor Lucy Chappell, chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), said in the press release: "Together we can aim to generate high quality long-term evidence to benefit men at risk of developing this condition, and to inform those who plan and deliver NHS services of how best to test for the disease," she said.
NHS England said it also planned measures to help improve men's health in general. These include improvements to men's health pages online, the appointment of the first ever Men's Health Ambassador, and the establishment of the first Men's Health Task and Finish Group.