2017/18 at Prostate Cancer UK

Introduction from our CEO

What a whirlwind 12 months it’s been. You could not have failed to notice that prostate cancer has been big news. Our story, that prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the third most common cancer killer, hit the headlines in February and generated huge interest. Prostate cancer has rarely been out of the news since.

The past year has seen us push further than ever before – we had our largest ever research project, which will help to give men the right treatment for their cancer; the largest ever number of contacts with our Specialist Nurse service; and the most funds ever donated to Prostate Cancer UK to allow us to continue our vital work.

To all of our fantastic supporters, thank you for everything you’ve done over the last 12 months. We’ve made some huge strides towards taming prostate cancer and we couldn’t have achieved any of this without you.

Together we will stop prostate cancer being a killer.

- Angela Culhane, CEO, Prostate Cancer UK

Better diagnosis

Improving diagnosis has been the one of the biggest topics in prostate cancer research over the past year. After decades of inadequate tests, we are now seeing the roll-out of mpMRI scans across the country. Since our early research showed the potential for this sophisticated scan, it is now being used to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and help to guide biopsy needles to areas of suspicion.

The use of mpMRI scans has been the first major advance in prostate cancer diagnosis since the PSA test was introduced a generation ago. We don’t want to wait for another generation to see the next improvement. The next big aim is to get the accuracy of tests to the level that they could be used in a national screening programme, in the way that we currently have for breast and bowel cancers.

Better treatment

In the past year, we funded two major research projects to bring precision medicine to men with prostate cancer for the first time. Currently men receive a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, but we know that every man's cancer is different. Precision medicine means that the treatment is tailored to what genes are driving the cancer's growth. We've seen massive improvements to survival in other types of cancer and we want to do the same for prostate cancer.

Totalling £2.7 million, the two projects will be studying men currently on hormone therapy and men who have stopped responding to hormone therapy respectively. The projects complement each other perfectly and build on the work that we're doing to identify which men will benefit from drugs like abiraterone.

We have also funded projects to use radiotherapy to target tumours that have become resistant to treatment and to develop statistical tools to quickly review results from clinical trials.

Better prevention

We all know that prevention is better than a cure, but that’s a tall order when it comes to prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is strongly affected by your genetics, in fact it’s one of the most heritable common cancers, and there’s not much we can do about that.

However, prevention isn’t just about stopping the cancer in the first place – it’s also important to prevent the cancer from coming back after treatment. In the past year, we’ve funded four outstanding projects focusing on better prevention:

  • Building a prostate cancer vaccine - Professor Helen McCarthy, from Queen’s University Belfast, is building on our previous research to develop a microneedle patch that can administer a prostate cancer vaccine. In this new research her team will combine this patch with patented nanoparticles to trigger the immune system to detect and destroy any prostate cancer.
  • Can exercise prevent cancer spread? - Dr Ning Wang, from the University of Sheffield, will test the idea that strengthening bone growth can prevent prostate cancer cells from spreading into and growing inside bones. He will study the effects of load-bearing exercise in mice with aim of identifying the types and frequency of exercise needed for it to work in men.
  • Reprogramming immune cells to fight back against cancer regrowth - Professor Claire Lewis and Professor Janet Brown, from the University of Sheffield, have found that certain immune cells help to heal the cancer after treatment and encourage it to spread. In this project, they aim to reprogramme these immune cells in the prostate to prevent cancers coming back. 
  • Blocking cancer aggression - Dr Valentine Macaulay, from the University of Oxford, has been supported by us since 2004 after she discovered that a specific protein makes the cancer more aggressive. We are now funding her to test a potential new drug to target this protein. She hopes that this could be used to help prevent prostate cancers from becoming aggressive. 

Better support

Call our nurses

0800 074 8383

Our commitment to supporting men remains as strong as ever, and our award-winning clinical and information services continue to empower men and demystify prostate cancer for those who have questions that need to be answered.

As well as the record 13,776 contacts for our specialist nurses and 1.5 million visitors to  our health information online, here are five new ways from the past year that we’re giving men better support following their diagnosis:

  1. Information on managing side effects: Our new online self-management guides have been viewed over 100,000 times in their first year. These give men and their families a new way to access information about managing side effects of treatment.
  2. Support groups for everyone: We’re always looking for ways to ensure that everyone can benefit from the support of others with shared experiences and this year we set up an online support group for gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer.
  3. Confidence in monitoring: We created a consensus on exactly how Active Surveillance should be offered and carried out after finding that there is no consistency across the UK about how Active Surveillance is offered and managed.
  4. Access to services: We’ve campaigned for improved support for men experiencing erectile dysfunction following prostate cancer treatment, including increased access to erectile dysfunction services and improving the skills and knowledge of clinicians.
  5. Understanding the impact of a diagnosis: We’re now in the final year of our Life After Prostate Cancer Diagnosis study, funded by the Movember Foundation, which is the biggest survey of its kind to understand the impact of prostate cancer on everyday life.