New research to improve diagnosis of prostate cancer

New research will discover how well the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test works to catch harmful forms of prostate cancer in men visiting their GP. CanTest researchers from Cambridge and Exeter, will then try out a new way to combine PSA results with other data to help improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with 40,000 men diagnosed each year. Finding it early can be life-saving but when used in primary care the PSA test can be inaccurate. It sometimes gives normal results in men with prostate cancer and abnormal results in men without prostate cancer. This means some cancers are missed, so that treatment is delayed, while some men get false positives and end up having further unnecessary tests and even surgery that they don’t need.

The new research, called ProsDetect, will be led by Dr Garth Funston or University of Cambridge and Dr Sam Merriel of University of Exeter, both CanTest Clinical Research Fellows.

The team will use anonymised information from the 2010-2015 GP records of over 220,000 patients, to determine how good PSA is at finding prostate cancer in men who visited their GP. Then the researchers will develop and test a new model that combines PSA results with additional information such as body mass index and other blood test results. The aim is to give patients and GPs a more accurate estimate of how likely a man is to have harmful prostate cancer, to help them make informed choices about whether to have further tests, such as scans and biopsies.

Dr Garth Funston said: ‘Our aim is to achieve better care for the hundreds of thousands of men who are tested for prostate cancer each year when they visit their GP. This study will provide a clearer picture of how accurate PSA is when used in general practice. It will also allow us to develop new models which could help us improve how prostate cancer is detected.’

Dr Sam Merriel added: ‘Patients are at the core of this research from start to finish. We have a patient representative with personal family experience of prostate cancer on the team to help ensure we focus on the issues that matter most and we will work with patients and members of the public throughout the project.’

The new research, which begins this week, is funded by NIHR Research for Patient Benefit programme. Read more about Prosdetect here.

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