Male scientist in laboratory with test tubes

Research by Swansea scientists investigating sugars in the blood could lead to more effective testing and earlier diagnoses for prostate cancer – which would save countless men’s lives.

Prostate Cancer UK has funded a major new project at Swansea University as part of the charity’s Research Innovation Awards (RIAs), a £3m investment across seven UK institutions in the latest advancements to defeat prostate cancer.

Dr Jason Webber, of Swansea University Medical School has received more than £400,000 for research that will look to create a new type of non-invasive blood test for prostate cancer, to help detect prostate cancer earlier as well as avoiding unnecessary  - and potentially harmful biopsies.

The project will investigate specific sugars found in the blood stream of men with prostate cancer that could be used in test to determine a man’s risk of developing the disease and how likely it is to spread.

He said: “The blood sugars we’re focusing on aren’t the same as the sugar or glucose we consume in food and drinks. These sugars are found on the surface of extracellular vesicles, small packages released by prostate cancer cells into the bloodstream which trick and invade healthy cells, spreading cancer around the body.”

When prostate cancer spreads beyond the prostate it becomes incurable. More innovative and efficient testing will lead to earlier and more specific diagnoses giving more men a better chance of surviving prostate cancer.

Overall this year Prostate Cancer UK will put more than £7.8 million into research that drives forward earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

The charity’s director of research Dr Matthew Hobbs said: “Diagnosing men earlier and developing smarter, more targeted treatments will give us the best possible chance to stop prostate cancer being a killer and to improve the lives of men living with the disease. That’s why we’ve invested £3m into this round of cutting-edge prostate cancer research across the UK.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men with one in eight getting the disease in the UK, rising to one in four for black men. One man dies from prostate cancer every 45 minutes.

Wales is one of the worst-affected regions in the UK for late prostate cancer referrals and diagnosis with  one in every five men with the disease being diagnosed too late for a cure. In London that figure is one in eight.

Unfortunately early prostate cancer doesn’t usually have symptoms so men are encouraged to be aware of their risk, which is higher over the age of 50. Black men and men with a family history of the disease are at an even higher risk and should speak to their GP from the age of 45.

Men can check their risk in just 30 seconds online using Prostate Cancer UK’s online risk checker You can also donate to help fund Prostate Cancer UK’s research

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