The team targeted better diagnosis by taking a fresh look at the whole patient pathway, using methods that require fewer but more accurate biopsies. They also pioneered treatments – called focal therapy – that are cheaper, can be done in a day-case setting with quick recovery and carry significantly fewer long-term side–effects compared to traditional surgery or radiotherapy, such as incontinence and impotence.
The new approach was shortlisted in the acute sector innovation category for the Health Service Journal Awards, and last night the team – accompanied by UCLH chief executive Sir Robert Naylor and chairman Richard Murley – were named winners at the awards ceremony.
The judges said that the work was "making a difference to a common problem. It showcased an emphasis on patient outcomes and is an innovative yet very cost effective scheme".
At UCLH, highly accurate magnetic resonance imaging allows men without suspicion of significant cancer to avoid biopsy, while those with a suspicious lesion can have an accurately targeted biopsy. This biopsy is carried out through the skin, not through the back-passage as with traditional biopsies, and virtually eliminates infection. A one-stop diagnostic service allows men to be reviewed, scanned and, if necessary, biopsied all in one day.
The new approach means fewer men are biopsied, resulting in less harm to patients and reduced costs. In addition, the one-stop service developed by the team has reduced patient visits from five to two, and time-to-diagnosis from six weeks down to one.
The multi-disciplinary flagship unit of over 50 includes patients, nurses, urologists, radiologists, pathologists, trialists, imaging experts, engineering scientists and molecular researchers.
Hashim Ahmed, who holds positions at both UCLH and UCL and who led the work, said: “I am tremendously proud of the team who have worked so hard to develop this new approach. It was challenging to bring all of these aspects together, but ultimately we have been able to prevent unnecessary treatment and provide quicker and more accurate treatment for those patients who need it.
“We now have 30 per cent fewer biopsies, 30 per cent better cancer detection, fewer radical treatments, a greater number of day-case treatments and fewer complications and side-effects.”
The composition of the unit is at the heart of what is encouraged by the NIHR UCLH/UCL Biomedical Research Centre. It was conceived almost eight years ago by Professor Mark Emberton and has led to large step changes in practice over the last five years.
Click here to read more about prostate services at UCLH.