Transforming prostate cancer diagnosis

Transforming prostate cancer diagnosis

Prostate cancer used to be diagnosed using a random biopsy where the chances of missing a significant cancer were high - around 50%. There weren't any scans that could accurately image the prostate to identify areas that could be cancer and guide biopsy needles to the right places. We funded researchers at University College London to test a new imaging technique on the prostate, called multi parametric Magnetic Resonance Imaging (mpMRI).

This was successful and the early data they generated convinced the government to fund PROMIS, an ambitious clinical trial to test the technique in a large number of men. The results transformed the way prostate cancer was diagnosed in the UK.

2024 Researcher Mark Emberton 1
Professor Mark Emberton
It’s difficult to get research funding when you want to try something radically different. Charity funding allowed us to test out a new idea; there was nowhere else to go.
Professor Mark Emberton
2022 Allan Roper 800X448 (2)

Allan was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. When he was referred, he was offered the chance to be part of the PROMIS trial, which helped to show that mpMRI could be used for diagnosis. Allan chose to take part in the trial and he thinks it could have saved his life, because they told him it was only thanks to the mpMRI scan that they found the cancer at all. Thankfully Allan got the treatment he needed and is now five years all-clear of cancer.

When I was referred, I was given the option to have the biopsy there and then or to go on a trial – PROMIS. I chose the trial and I honestly think that decision saved my life. Not only did this research help me, it’s changed how people are diagnosed, so men in future – like my son Adrian – will get better tests too."
Allan Roper, based in Hampshire

From research idea to access for all


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We held a meeting in 2008 bringing together top prostate cancer researchers in the UK to discuss how to improve prostate cancer diagnosis, one of the key areas of our strategy.

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Lab research

We funded researchers based at University College London to test a new form of imaging to help diagnose prostate cancer - multiparametric Magnetic Resonance Imaging (mpMRI). 

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Clinical trials

Data generated from our funding convinced the government to fund a large clinical trial, PROMIS, which tested mpMRI in hundreds of men. The results of PROMIS were presented in 2016 and published in 2017, showing that mpMRI enabled researchers to more accurately target biopsies and reduce the numbers of men having unnecessary biopsies and unnecessary treatment for prostate cancers that wouldn't cause them harm. 

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Approved for use

We drove this forward, working with the Royal College of Radiologists, practising radiologists, radiographers, urologists, members of the PROMIS trial team and Clinical Cancer Leads at two prominent Clinical Commissioning Groups to get the new technique rolled out to men across the UK as soon and as safely as possible.

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Access for all

Since 2017 we've worked extremely hard with decision makers to ensure the majority of men have access to mpMRI. 

What's next?

We've continued to fund projects to improve diagnosis for men with prostate cancer. This includes ways to streamline the mpMRI process, alternatives to mpMRI for men who aren't able to have the scans and new ways to detect aggressive prostate cancer using blood or urine tests.

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Speeding up scans for diagnosis

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With your help we can beat prostate cancer, together

We’ve invested over £65 million in research over the last 25 years. Our funded research has already started to make a difference, you can help us fund research to stop prostate cancer killing men by making a donation or getting involved.

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