A prostate cancer risk prediction tool for primary care practice

In a nutshell

Dr Chris Parker, at the Institute of Cancer Research in London is leading a team of international scientific experts to develop a risk assessment tool that can be used by GPs around the country to calculate a man’s risk of having aggressive prostate cancer, and instruct him what to do next. The initial phase of the research will last 12 months and cost £310,000.

Lay summary

Dr Chris Parker is leading an international team of scientists from the UK, Netherlands, Canada and the USA to develop a risk assessment tool that will work with GP’s existing computer software to give a better indication of a man’s risk of having aggressive prostate cancer. It will then give men and their GPs clear instructions about what to do next, whether that’s to go straight to a urologist for further investigation, have a repeat assessment in a few years time, or something in between.

The team will use their expertise in developing similar risk tools in other countries, but will concentrate on ensuring that the tool works in a UK setting. This means making sure that they use European and UK data to refine the calculations underpinning the tool, so that it reflects the real-life UK population as closely as possible.

To start with, the team will concentrate on developing the calculations behind the risk assessment tool, and will refine it using a series of statistical tests to determine exactly which risk factors should be included. This might include anything from a man’s age, family history and PSA level to new genetic and protein biomarkers. They will determine the additional accuracy each factor gives to the calculation and weigh this up against any barriers which might get in the way of collecting the information or use of the tool, before then deciding whether or not that information should be included.

The risk assessment tool will also include an estimate of an individual’s life expectancy based on other diseases or life-threatening conditions they might have. This is important to take into consideration, because it helps to create a more detailed picture of a man’s overall health, and to determine the likely impact that prostate cancer will have on their life. This will in turn affect the action a doctor might recommend a patient to take.

The advantage of this system is that because each calculation uses information from a particular individual, the recommended action will be tailored for each man depending on the best course of action for them.

Once the calculation has been developed, it will be tested with GPs and men to make sure that it’s easy to use, and gives reliable and clear results, so that it’s acceptable to both GPs and men. It is likely that the risk assessment tool will require more extensive, rigorous testing in a clinical trial, although funding for this will be dependent on the initial results from this first phase of the project.

Grant information

Researcher - Dr Chris Parker
Institution - Institute of Cancer Research
Award - £310,206.00
Duration - 2016 - 2017