Scientist in Newcastle

Our research strategy 2020-2030: More cures, less harm

Our research strategy sets out how we will invest in the most innovative ideas to accelerate our knowledge and understanding of prostate cancer, and develop better treatments and more effective approaches to diagnosis to transform the lives of all men with, or at risk of, prostate cancer.

We have a vision

A future where lives are not limited by prostate cancer. 

Over the past 25 years, Prostate Cancer UK have stood with and alongside men. We’ve invested over £50 million in research, to transform our understanding of the disease. Our research has initiated and accelerated some of the biggest breakthroughs in prostate cancer care over the last two decades – from the use of multiparametric MRI to improve diagnosis, to the world’s first precision medicine for prostate cancer.

But we still have work to do. Prostate cancer kills one man every 45 minutes, and harms thousands of men and their families. And the problem is growing. By 2030, it’s set to be the most common cancer in the UK.

We want to stop prostate cancer being a killer and damaging bodies and lives. This goal is underpinned by our research strategy, which sets out how we will invest in the most innovative ideas to accelerate our knowledge and understanding of prostate cancer, and develop better treatments and more effective approaches to diagnosis to transform the lives of all men with, or at risk of, prostate cancer.

More cures, less harm

Prostate cancer is harming too many men, in exchange for too few cures

If prostate cancer is caught in time, when it's still localised and contained within the prostate, we have treatments that can cure it. But these treatments can leave men with life-long harm from side effects like incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

But if prostate cancer escapes outside the prostate, and develops into an advanced form of the disease, men’s treatment options become limited. At this stage the disease is no longer curable.

Some men’s cancer is only caught at this advanced stage. Others are diagnosed when their cancer is still contained in the prostate, but initial treatments fail and their cancer eventually comes back in an advanced and incurable form. And some men are incorrectly diagnosed with ‘curable’ cancer, which in reality has already spread.   

We believe men deserve better. They deserve a future where they don’t have to fear being harmed by treatments, not being diagnosed in time, or having their cancer return. They deserve a future where their lives and bodies are not harmed by prostate cancer.

By 2030, we aim to have made real and tangible progress to: 

  • Reduce the number of men diagnosed too late or inaccurately, at a stage where there is no chance of curing their disease.
  • Reduce the number of men whose initial treatments fail, leaving their cancer to recur in an incurable form.
  • Reduce harm from life-changing side effects that are a consequence of treating localised disease.

Ultimately, we want a future with more cures, and less harm. It’s a future we know is possible. And it’s a future we know men deserve.

Our coordinated plan of attack on prostate cancer

We’ve developed a research strategy we’re confident can deliver a future where lives are not harmed by prostate cancer. One that uses rationally designed medical research combined with strategic collaboration to deliver a desperately needed transformation in cures versus harm for prostate cancer.  

We can make the biggest impact towards this goal by focusing on three key areas:

  • Better diagnosis  

    We want to increase the proportion of men whose cancer is caught before it’s spread, and diagnose it accurately, so they can be given the best treatments from the start.

    By helping to fund research into the advanced imaging technique, multi-parametric MRI, we’ve helped reduce the harm from prostate cancer biopsies, and improve the accuracy of diagnosis.

    But too many men still suffer the consequences of a diagnosis that is too late, or inaccurate. 

    Now, we want to support the development of a screening programme for prostate cancer. One that will help catch all men’s disease early and accurately, to give them the best chance of a cure.

    We’re already working in partnership with other organisations to map the potential pathways to a screening programme, and have committed to funding the targeted research to take us there. We will also continue to fund research to find more accurate tests and better imaging, to continue to improve the diagnosis pathway. 

    By 2030 we will have:

    • Designed and delivered strategic and targeted research to help bring men a screening programme for prostate cancer.
    • Developed imaging as an effective, consistent and accessible tool for prostate cancer diagnosis.
    • Helped discover the most promising biological and risk markers of prostate cancer and develop these into tools to improve early detection of prostate cancer.
  • Better treatment  

    We want to reduce side effects from current treatments, so no man has to sacrifice their quality of life for a cure. And we’ll keep working to develop new treatments for men with advanced prostate cancer, to stop lives being limited by the disease.  

    In the last decade, we’ve made huge progress in treating prostate cancer. We’ve seen several new drugs be developed, including the world’s first precision medicine for prostate cancer, and made progress in areas like immunotherapy to harness the power of men’s immune systems against prostate cancer.

    But current treatments for prostate cancer that is contained in the prostate still cause significant harm from side effects, and are not always effective at stopping the disease. And despite new treatment options, there is still no cure for prostate cancer that has spread outside the prostate.

    We’ll continue to fund the best ideas from across the research spectrum to transform prostate cancer treatment. We’ll have a new and much-needed focus on improving outcomes for men with localised disease treated with surgery, radiotherapy or other new combination therapies, to ensure treatments are more likely to cure men and less likely to harm them.

    For advanced prostate cancer, we’ll work out how treatments can be used to keep men alive for longer, by optimising the dose and sequence of drugs, and determining which treatments are best for which men. And we’ll continue to fund high-quality early stage research focused on the discovery and development of new therapies and bring us closer to a cure.

    By 2030 we will have:

    • Funded large scale studies and clinical trials to transform treatment for localised prostate cancer that reduces the risk of harm from side effects and maximises the chance of a cure.
    • Established the optimal use of existing treatments, and developed new tests to predict treatment response based on each man’s genetic make-up and that of his prostate cancer.
    • Delivered high quality and innovative early-stage research that will lead to new treatments for prostate cancer.

     

  • Smarter data  

    We want to make rapid change for men, by finding new answers from existing data on prostate cancer.

    Investing in research into better diagnosis and better treatment is crucial, but we believe a future with less harm and more cures for prostate cancer could lie just beyond the horizon, hidden in the data of men living with and without prostate cancer.

    At an individual level, it’s impossible to unpick why one man responded to a specific treatment, experienced a certain side effect, or even developed prostate cancer in the first place. It means we can’t give men or their doctors the information they need to be sure they’re making the best choices to manage prostate cancer.

    But by taking a step back, and looking for the common themes in men’s health data, like their genetic make-up, age and disease progression, we can find meaningful information to impact men’s lives. We aim to collate and analyse this information, to lead to the development of an incredibly personalised tool to make treatment and diagnostic choices easier for men, and help make sure these decisions are most likely to result in a cure.

    We’re already investing in large-scale data collection initiatives and projects that are improving the quality of the data that already exists, and are poised to start using this data to transform the lives of men affected by prostate cancer.

    By 2030 we will have:

    • Invested in large, UK-led initiatives to collect and analyse patient data to improve our understanding of prostate cancer treatment and diagnosis.
    • Partnered with researchers to find ways of linking large NHS data sets with clinical trial data sets and genomic data, to give the richest source of information on prostate cancer to date.
    • Partnered with some of the most exciting minds in artificial intelligence to build tools to take advantage of the data we have and help men make individual treatment choices that are best for them and the type of cancer they have.

Our approach

We want to support the research that has the greatest potential for change, conducted by the best researchers, and guided by a rigorous funding policy.

We will fund the best research:

  • By using innovative approaches to funding research and continuing to meet the Association of Medical Research Charities’ guidance on best practice in research funding.
  • By monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of our research to ensure we use the knowledge we gain to best effect, either by funding further research or by supporting translation into clinical practice.
  • By fostering a flourishing prostate cancer research environment in the UK and supporting the next generation of leading prostate cancer researchers.

We will be evidence led:

  • By learning from, and acting on, research in other diseases, countries and funders. 
  • By actively contributing to the acquisition of new knowledge about prostate cancer, and using this to constantly evolve our approach to research.
  • By using what we learn from new, big data approaches to guide and inform our future research priorities.

We will partner for the most impact:

  • With men affected by prostate cancer, their families, partners and carers to ensure they stay at the heart of our work.
  • With international experts in research, data collection and analysis, and the delivery of prostate cancer treatment and care.
  • With other research funders across the world and other interested stakeholders who can help to ensure that research results are put into practice.

Our research strategy will give men the future they deserve

With just a few years before prostate cancer is predicted to become the most common cancer in the UK, we need an urgent and major transformation in how we diagnose, treat and learn about the disease.

We believe our research strategy can deliver this change, and give men the future they deserve. One where their lives are not limited by prostate cancer. One with more cures, and less harm.

We’re excited about this challenging and ambitious journey, and we look forward to you joining us along the way.