Yorkshire Cancer Research has announced £3.1 million in funding for two major clinical trials at the University of Sheffield.
A three-year investigation will explore the possibility of an early detection programme for bladder cancer. A separate six-year study will seek to improve the treatment of men with early stage prostate cancer.
The trials, led by James Catto, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professor and Professor in Urological Surgery at the University of Sheffield, will be supported by Peter Sasieni, Professor of Cancer Prevention at King’s College London and co-ordinated by the King’s College Cancer Prevention Trials Unit.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: “These trials will involve thousands of people in Yorkshire and seek to address some key questions in the diagnosis and treatment of two very common cancers.”
The charity will fund a £1.5 million programme to assess and compare the use of self-testing kits and community early detection clinics to start to test the idea of screening people at high risk of developing bladder cancer.
Bladder cancer incidence rates are significantly higher in Yorkshire than in England as a whole. Death rates from bladder cancer are also higher than the England average in some parts of Yorkshire, such as Doncaster, Hull and North Kirklees¹.
To determine whether bladder cancer screening can be embedded within community lung cancer screening programmes, 2000 people taking part in a lung screening trial funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research will be invited to take part in a ‘bladder health check’.
They will be asked to self-test their urine using a dipstick which can detect traces of blood and other abnormalities. Those with a positive result will receive further urine testing for cancerous cells and an ultrasound scan at a community early detection clinic.
Self-testing kits will also be sent to 3000 men aged 65-80 across Yorkshire who have been identified as being at risk of bladder cancer.
Professor Catto, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism, said: “This funding will allow us to undertake the feasibility steps for a comprehensive early detection programme for bladder cancer across Yorkshire. It will assess how well we can detect bladder cancer in several different Yorkshire populations and will look to confirm the idea has potential to save lives.”
Yorkshire Cancer Research will also fund a £1.6m trial to test the use of a drug called ‘finasteride’ in men with early stage prostate cancer.
Some men with prostate cancers that may grow slowly - and therefore may not require surgery or radiotherapy - choose to be closely monitored rather than receiving immediate treatment. This is known as ‘active surveillance’.
They are tested regularly to keep track of levels of a protein called ‘prostate specific antigen’ (PSA), which can be an indicator that a cancer is growing. They also receive scans and ‘biopsies’, which involve taking samples of tissue to be examined.
Half of men who choose active surveillance eventually go on receive surgery or radiotherapy due to rising PSA levels. These treatments can cause side effects and may be unnecessary in some men.
The study will test whether finasteride, an existing drug that slows prostate growth and reduces PSA levels, can be used to improve active surveillance by reducing the number of men who undergo surgery or radiotherapy needlessly.
Professor Catto said: “Men are reluctant to undergo multiple biopsies and so rely on PSA tests. If PSA levels continue to rise, they may end up having unnecessary treatment. Many men with high PSA levels may have a cancer that would never have caused problems or shortened their lives.
“Improving active surveillance was the highest research priority selected in the recent national guidelines for prostate cancer management. If we can improve active surveillance, we can reduce concerns regarding treating too many men with prostate cancer screening and prostate cancer screening could be introduced in the UK, leading to a reduction in deaths.”
The two trials are part of a wider £8.3m funding boost for new research programmes across Yorkshire.