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Ground-breaking prostate cancer research scanner to be installed

PUBLISHED: 09:16 28 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:16 28 May 2019

(Left to right) Norfolk Freemasons provincial grand master, Stephen Allen, UEA's Professor Colin Cooper, and UEA director of development David Ellis. Photo: Geraldine Scott

(Left to right) Norfolk Freemasons provincial grand master, Stephen Allen, UEA's Professor Colin Cooper, and UEA director of development David Ellis. Photo: Geraldine Scott

Geraldine Scott

Thousands of men with prostate cancer will be able to avoid the damaging side effects of surgery thanks to a new research scanner that will be installed in Norwich.

Thanks to fundraising by the Norfolk Freemasons a state-of-the-art scanner which can differentiate between the majority of harmless prostate cancers, known as pussycat cancers, and the 10pc which are aggressive, known as tiger cancers.

The Freemasons raised not only the £144,000 needed for the scanner, which will be in a new screening laboratory at the University of East Anglia (UEA), but also another £146,000 for prostate cancer research.

Up until now there has been no way for doctors to tell the difference between the two types of the cancer, which led to tens of thousands of men having unnecessary operations with serious side-effects including incontinence and impotence.

Each operation costs the NHS £7,500 to perform, so there are also significant savings to be made from performing less unnecessary surgery.

The clinical research team behind the test, which is enabled by the scanner, is led by Professor Colin Cooper, who is developing the new test after a laboratory breakthrough made using artificial intelligence.

He is hoping to raise £2m to continue his vital research into this condition over the next three years, to create the new clinical test.

The £290,000 donation from Norfolk Freemasons includes a £100,000 grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales..

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Prof Cooper said: "I am extremely grateful to Norfolk Freemasons for their generous grant, which will fund not only the scanner itself, but also the continuing research into prostate cancer.

"Many lives will be saved as a result and many unnecessary operations will be avoided, saving patients from some very unpleasant side-effects.

"There is a critical problem at the moment of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer."

Prof Cooper had been working on the issue for 15 years, but it was only when he came to UEA he was able to get to the bottom of the issue.

His research will be the only of its sort in the country, and could have ramifications worldwide.

He said when they first stumbled across the answer to how to distinguish between the aggressive and non-aggressive types of prostate cancer, none of his four-strong team believed it.

He said: "Once a week for two years we sat in a room and pulled it apart. Ever time we had a meeting one of us did not believe it for some reason.

"We ended up somewhere very different to where anyone has ended up before."

Stephen Allen, head of Norfolk Freemasons said: "I'm delighted that we've been able to not only achieve our goal of buying the scanner, but we've raised more than double the amount needed. This will allow us to make a very significant contribution to Professor Cooper's ongoing research."

- To support the research contact the UEA Development Office, email giving@uea.ac.uk or call 01603 592945 for more information.

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