The University of Sheffield has been awarded £3.1 million in funding for two clinical trials to help improve the detection of bladder cancer and treatment of early-stage prostate cancer.
The latest funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research is the fourth grant awarded to Sheffield in the past 12 months – totalling £8 million.
The first trial, a three-year investigation, will explore the possibility of an early detection programme for bladder cancer. A separate six-year study will seek to improve the treatment of men with early-stage prostate cancer.
The trials, led by James Catto, Professor of Urology Surgery at the University of Sheffield and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Professor, will be supported by Peter Sasieni, Professor of Cancer Prevention at King’s College London and co-ordinated by the King’s College Cancer Prevention Trials Unit.
To determine whether bladder cancer screening can be embedded within community lung cancer screening programmes, 2,000 people taking part in a lung screening trial funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research will be invited to take part in a bladder health check.
They will be asked to self-test their urine using a dipstick which can detect traces of blood and other abnormalities. Those with a positive result will receive further urine testing for cancerous cells and an ultrasound scan at a community early detection clinic.
Self-testing kits will also be sent to 3,000 men aged 65-80 across Yorkshire who have been identified as being at risk of bladder cancer.
Professor Catto, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Oncology and Metabolism, said, “This funding will allow us to undertake the feasibility steps for a comprehensive early detection programme for bladder cancer across Yorkshire.
“It will assess how well we can detect bladder cancer in several different Yorkshire populations and will look to confirm the idea has the potential to save lives.”
Yorkshire Cancer Research will also fund a £1.6m trial to test the use of a drug called finasteride in men with early-stage prostate cancer.
Some men with prostate cancers that may grow slowly – and therefore may not require surgery or radiotherapy – choose to be closely monitored rather than receiving immediate treatment. This is known as active surveillance.
They are tested regularly to keep track of levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can be an indicator that cancer is growing. They also receive scans and biopsies, which involve taking samples of tissue to be examined.
Half of the men who choose active surveillance eventually go on to receive surgery or radiotherapy due to rising PSA levels. These treatments can cause side effects and may be unnecessary in some men.
The study will test whether finasteride, an existing drug that slows prostate growth and reduces PSA levels, can be used to improve active surveillance by reducing the number of men who undergo surgery or radiotherapy needlessly.
Professor Catto said, “Men are reluctant to undergo multiple biopsies and so rely on PSA tests. If PSA levels continue to rise, they may end up having unnecessary treatment. Many men with high PSA levels may have cancer that would never have caused problems or shortened their lives. Improving active surveillance was the highest research priority selected in the recent national guidelines for prostate cancer management. If we can improve active surveillance, we can reduce concerns regarding treating too many men with prostate cancer screening and prostate cancer screening could be introduced in the UK, leading to a reduction in deaths.”
The two trials are part of a wider £8.3 million funding boost for new research programmes across Yorkshire.
Dr Kathryn Scott, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Cancer Research, said, “These trials will involve thousands of people in Yorkshire and seek to address some key questions in the diagnosis and treatment of two very common cancers.”