09 Apr 2018
This article is more than 3 years old

Theresa May joins mission to stop prostate cancer being a killer revealing £75m research fund

Today the Prime Minister will make the biggest prostate cancer funding announcement we have seen – a move we hope will make a significant contribution to our bid to stop prostate cancer taking lives. 

During a visit to a hospital in Cambridgeshire, Theresa May will promise an investment of £75 million into research focused on getting men diagnosed earlier and faster. The research plan, backed by this investment, will investigate innovative new treatments and will involve recruiting 40,000 men to take part in prostate cancer studies over the next five years.

The new studies will particularly target higher risk groups including black men – one in four of whom will develop the disease – as well as men aged 50 or over and men with a family history of prostate cancer.

Over 40,000 patients will be recruited for more than 60 studies in prostate cancer, to test treatments including more precise radiotherapy, high-intensity focused ultrasound and cryotherapy, alongside supportive interventions including exercise and dietary advice.

Testament to years of dedication and hard work

The news follows several months of unprecedented media focus on prostate cancer that began with our announcement in February that prostate cancer is now a bigger killer than breast cancer. Keeping the disease in the public eye has surely contributed to this announcement. It is also a testament to years of dedication and hard work from our supporters, researchers and staff to shine a light on the magnitude of the problem and develop a strategy to stop prostate cancer killing men.

So can we sit back and put our feet up now? Definitely not. We are hugely encouraged to see recognition of the huge issue that prostate cancer is and a commitment to action from the Department of Health. But while this is a significant sum that will move things forward, it’s not enough on its own.

In our strategy Ten Years to Tame Prostate Cancer, launched in 2016, we set out our ambition to halve the number of expected deaths from prostate cancer by 2026. Thanks to our supporters we have been able to step up investment into research for better diagnosis, better treatment and better prevention, as well as campaigning for better support for men.

Our strategy set out plans for investing £120 million into research, raised through the generosity of our supporters, which would complement the government’s existing research spending. It is great to see this new announcement from the Prime Minister, but it comes after decades of underfunding and we still have a long way to go before we can match the advances seen in other cancers. We’ll continue to see one man dying every 45 minutes from prostate cancer unless we all come together to support vital research.

With research, long-term support is crucial. We have been working towards early diagnosis for many years, for example our work on mpMRI. We funded early-stage research into this advanced form of MRI scan to show the potential for improving diagnosis, which led to a £2 million government-funded trial. This technology is now being rolled out across the country and is a great example of how charity and government funding can work well together.

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More funding needed to help us achieve screening programme plans

Even with the advances we have made through mpMRI, the current tests are not reliable enough to have a nationwide screening programme for prostate cancer. This would make an enormous difference in catching the disease early, as the symptoms are not always obvious until the cancer has spread. Our plan is to make improvements across the whole diagnostic pathway and find better tests, with the aim of having a screening programme ready within the next five years. Together, we can make it happen.

Ahead of the announcement, Theresa May said: “Too many people endure the loss of a loved one because cancer diagnosis comes too late in the day. Our cancer treatments are world class and survival rates are at a record high, but prostate cancer still claims thousands of lives every year.

“I know we can do more. That’s why I am setting out new plans to help thousands of men get treated earlier and faster.”

Today’s announcement comes as the Prime Minister confirmed the Government will come forward with a fully funded, long-term plan for the NHS this year – the year of the service’s 70th birthday – in conjunction with NHS leaders, clinicians, and health experts.

Dr Iain Frame, our director of research said: “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and it is now the third most common cause of cancer deaths in the UK.

“However, with increased research investment used wisely, over the next few years we can turn this around and make prostate cancer a disease men no longer need to fear. This is what Prostate Cancer UK is striving for through our ambitious research programme.

“Today’s announcement shows a very welcome and positive commitment from the government to play a key role in getting men the early and accurate diagnosis and treatments for prostate cancer they deserve. It at last shows recognition of what a huge issue prostate cancer is and the focus needed to stop it being a killer.

“We look forward to finding out more about the plans laid out by the Prime Minister. By working together and pooling our resources we will be able to save more lives more quickly and build a better future for men.”

We will be following this story very closely and bring you any more details about the research and any trials as they unfold.

To support our work and help us reach the £120 million that we still need to invest, you can donate online right now.