Research into the screening, diagnosis and causes of prostate cancer

Before new tests can be introduced, they need to be tested thoroughly. This is so we can be sure that they work and that they are safe.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for prostate cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you might be able to take part in.

Some of the trials on this page have now stopped recruiting people. It takes time before the results are available. This is because the trial team follow the patients for a period of time and collect and analyse the results. We have included this ongoing research to give examples of the type of research being carried out in prostate cancer.

Click on the ‘recruiting’, ‘closed’ and ‘results’ tabs to see all the trials.

Research into the screening of prostate cancer

Screening means testing people for early stages of a cancer, or for early changes that could develop into cancer if left untreated.

Research is ongoing to find new prostate cancer screening tests and ways to improve the PSA test. This includes:

  • new blood and urine tests
  • using a combination of blood tests and other information such as age and family history
  • using MRI and other types of scans

Another study is looking at a test called Prostate Screening EpiSwitch (PSE). The PSE test combines the PSA test with another blood test that looks at the genes Open a glossary item. Doctors need to do more research to find out if the PSE test can help to diagnose prostate cancer early. 

Research into the diagnosis of prostate cancer

Researchers are looking into new tests to help diagnose prostate cancer. Tests that doctors are looking at include new types of MRI scans and breath tests. 


You may have a prostate biopsy through your back passage (rectum) or through the perineum. The perineum is the area in front of the back passage.

Researchers are trying to find different ways of taking prostate biopsies, to help diagnose prostate cancer. 


Breath samples

Researchers are looking for new ways to spot cancer early.

Early research shows that cells inside the body make substances that end up in the blood and are breathed out from the lungs (exhaled). These studies point out that the substances might be different if someone has cancer. A team of researchers wants to collect and analyse breath samples to see if the exhaled breath can detect cancer. They’ll compare samples from people who have cancer with people who don’t. 


You usually have a type of MRI scan called multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) to identify areas in your prostate that might be cancer. Doctors might then use a targeted biopsy to take samples of tissue from the areas. 

Researchers think doing an ultrasound using a contrast dye might be just as good at showing areas in the prostate that could have cancer cells. There are also looking at different types of MRI scans.

Research into the causes of prostate cancer

Researchers are looking into genes and other factors such as diet. They want to find out which factors increase your risk of developing prostate cancer.


Your risk of developing prostate cancer is higher if you have a close relative, such as a brother or father, who has had prostate cancer. And prostate cancer is more common in black-African men than in white men. This is because some inherited genes Open a glossary item can increase your risk of prostate cancer.

Researchers want to find out:

  • how family history can increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer
  • what genes might increase the risk

To find these answers they are developing a DNA bank, using saliva, blood and tumour samples from thousands of men. They are also asking the men to answer a questionnaire. And seeing whether screening would be helpful for these people. 


Researchers are looking at ways to prevent and slow the growth of prostate cancer.

Research has found that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer. This is partly from the effect of the diet itself, but mostly by helping you keep a healthy weight.

Researchers continue to look into how diet can help to prevent prostate cancer.

Research into treatment for prostate cancer

Researchers are looking into new treatments for early and advanced prostate cancer. 

  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials database
    Accessed July 2022

    Accessed July 2022

  • Evidence update on the relationship between diet and the most common cancers from the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC) study: a systematic review
    E Guisado and others
    Nutrients, 2021. Vol 13, Issue 10

  • Multicentre clinical evaluation of the safety and performance of a simple transperineal access system for prostate biopsies for suspected prostate cancer: The CAMbridge PROtate Biopsy DevicE (CamPROBE) study.
    V Gnanapragasam and others
    Journal of Clinical Urology, 2020. Vol 13, Issue 5. Pages 364-370

  • Benefit, Harm and cost effectiveness associated with magnetic resonance imaging before biopsy in age based and risk stratified screening for prostate cancer
    T Callender and others
    JAMA Oncology, 2021. Vol 4, Issue 3

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
12 Jul 2022
Next review due: 
12 Jul 2025

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