Continuing Controversy Over Monitoring Men With Localized Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review of Programs in the Prostate Specific Antigen Era

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Abstract

Purpose

There is continuing controversy over the most appropriate treatment for screen detected and clinically localized prostate cancer, and increasing interest in monitoring such men initially with radical treatment targeted at cancers showing signs of progressive potential but while they are still curable. Current evidence on monitoring protocols and biomarkers used to predict disease progression was systematically reviewed.

Materials and Methods

The MEDLINE and Excerpta Medica (EMBASE) bibliographic databases were searched from 1988 to October 2004, supplemented by manual searches of reference lists, focusing on studies reporting monitoring of men with localized prostate cancer.

Results

A total of 48 potentially eligible articles were found but only 5 studies, in which there was a total of 451 participants, restricted entry criteria to men with clinically localized (T1-T2) prostate cancer. Monitoring protocols varied with little consensus, although the majority used prostate specific antigen and digital rectal examination, while some added re-biopsy to assess progression. Actuarial probabilities of freedom from disease progression at 4 to 5 years of followup were 67% to 72%. However, up to 50% of men abandoned monitoring within 2 years, largely because of anxiety related to increasing prostate specific antigen rather than objective evidence of disease progression. There was no robust evidence to support prostate specific antigen doubling times or velocity to identify men in whom disease may progress. Studies were characterized by small sample size, short-term followup, observer bias and uncertain validity around variable definitions of progression.

Conclusions

Current evidence suggests that some form of monitoring would be a suitable treatment option in men with localized prostate cancer but there is little consensus over what markers should be used in such a program or how progression should be properly defined. The search for a method that safely identifies men with prostate cancer who could avoid radical intervention must continue.

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