27 May 2015

We’re working with new Cancer Taskforce to put prostate cancer care on the map

Making sure that men with prostate cancer get the best care possible is a big part of what we do. So when we heard that NHS England were putting together a new Cancer Taskforce to help them improve cancer care, we saw a chance to push prostate cancer care up the agenda. Here we explain what the Taskforce is trying to do and how we are feeding into that.

The Cancer Taskforce recently published their plans for a new cancer strategy for NHS England. They aim to make improvements in these important areas:

  • preventing cancer
  • access to support services
  • diagnosing cancer
  • cancer treatment
  • support for those living with and beyond cancer
  • end-of-life care
  • research into improving cancer treatment and care

If these aims sound familiar, it’s because we’ve said before that these are very much the kind of improvements we want to happen for men with prostate cancer.

When NHS England announced the Taskforce, Owen Sharp, our Chief Executive said: “The UK urgently needs a new strategy for tackling cancer. It is disgraceful that survival rates continue to lag behind the rest of Europe.

“The new Cancer Taskforce is our means to get progress on cancer back on track. It is crucial that the plan develops translates quickly into action - action to improve early diagnosis of cancers that are not automatically screened; action to develop more effective treatments with fewer side effects; action to establish systems to get  the most effective new treatments and services to all those who need them as early as possible.

“We will be doing everything we can to influence the development of a strategy that is up to the task and can benefit the people it is set up to serve, now and for years to come. We cannot afford to squander this rare chance for change.”

So what can the Taskforce do for men with prostate cancer?

That’s where we come in. We are working to make sure the specific needs of men with prostate cancer are considered in the new strategy.

We want to make sure the strategy’s focus on early detection and diagnosis isn’t just based on symptoms, but looks at risk factors too. This is because men with prostate cancer don’t always have symptoms that can be detected, so it’s more important for men to know if they’re at risk of developing the disease.

We want quicker access to new treatments and an end to a man’s address determining the type of treatments he can have.

And we want to make sure that men (and other cancer patients) are better informed, more involved and better able to participate in decisions around their care. And because that isn’t enough, we want easy-to-access, high-quality support for the side effects of treatment, too.

To make this happen, we’ve fed into the Taskforce both on our own behalf and as part of a coalition of charities. We’re also meeting with Taskforce representatives to share our research expertise, our knowledge about men’s experiences of prostate cancer and our know-how about ways to improve care.

For example, with support from Movember, we’ve tested a number of successful services across the country to improve support for men with prostate cancer after their treatment. We’ve spent a long time understanding the life-changing impacts that prostate cancer treatment has on men and the levels of support that men need after a prostate cancer diagnosis, and we’re taking this chance to get the Taskforce to see it too.

What are we doing outside of the Taskforce to improve these things for men with prostate cancer?

As we've said, the priorities of the Taskforce tie in with many of our own. So here's a quick summary of some of the work we're doing to get stuck in to these issues for men with prostate cancer.

Improving diagnosis of prostate cancer

Dr. Iain Frame, our Director of Research, and Owen Sharp, our CEO, have talked before about our work to improve early and accurate diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer through the development of a risk assessment tool.

We gathered together a crack team of scientists and doctors from around the world to put together a plan for developing a simple, effective and reasonably priced risk assessment tool. Once it’s developed, it will be widely used in GP surgeries to determine a man’s risk of having aggressive prostate cancer, and then give GPs a clear idea of what the next move for each man should be. When the final project proposal comes back, we’ll send it straight out for peer review and assessment by another expert panel to make sure it’s in good shape for funding.

In the meantime, we’re working with health professionals across the UK to come to an agreement about when and how often men should have a PSA test if they want one. We want both men and doctors to have a clear understanding of how to make the most of the tools we already have to help us detect aggressive prostate cancer early.

Improving care and support services for men

We’re also working with the Movember Foundation and other partners on a number of projects to find out exactly how men with prostate cancer feel about the care they've received, and what impact prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment had on their quality of life.

This is part of our Life after prostate cancer diagnosis project. And through the True NTH programme, we’re working with the Movember Foundation to identify and develop the best ways to improve care and support services for men living with and after prostate cancer.

Making treatments more effective and reducing side effects

And we are funding research to make current treatments more effective and with fewer side effects.

Prostate Cancer UK Career Development Fellow Dr Wafa Al-Jamal is looking at finding better ways of delivering chemotherapy, so the treatment only affects cancerous cells. She wants to make it more effective and reduce potential side effects.

Professor Charlotte Bevan is creating a way to accurately track androgen activity to see how this male sex hormone responds to new drugs and therapies. She hopes this will help researchers develop more effective treatments. You can read more about our research into treatment for advanced prostate cancer on our website.

We’re really excited about the potential of all these projects to change things for the better when it comes to prostate cancer diagnosis and care, and when the time comes, we’ll be working on the Cancer Taskforce to take our results into account as part of their action plan.