Time without PSA recurrence after radical prostatectomy as a predictor of future biochemical recurrence, metastatic disease and prostate cancer death: a prospective Scandinavian cohort study

Mats Steinholtz Ahlberg , Hans Garmo , Hans-Olov Adami , Ove Andrén , Jan-Erik Johansson , Gunnar Steineck , Lars Holmberg , Anna Bill-Axelson

BMJ Open


Objective Although surveillance after radical prostatectomy routinely includes repeated prostate specific antigen (PSA)-testing for many years, biochemical recurrence often occurs without further clinical progression. We therefore hypothesised that follow-up can be shortened for many patients without increasing the risk of prostate cancer death. We investigated the long-term probabilities of PSA recurrence, metastases and prostate cancer death in patients without biochemical recurrence five and 10 years after radical prostatectomy.

Design Prospective cohort study. Stratification by Gleason score (≤3+4=7 or ≥4+3=7), pathological tumour stage (pT2 or ≥pT3) and negative or positive surgical margins.

Setting Between 1989 and 1998, 14 urological centres in Scandinavia randomised patients to the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group study number 4 (SPCG-4) trial.

Participation All 306 patients from the SPCG-4 trial who underwent radical prostatectomy within 1 year from inclusion were eligible. Four patients were excluded due to surgery-related death (n=1) or salvage radiotherapy or hormonal treatment within 6 weeks from surgery (n=3).

Primary outcome measures Cumulative incidences and absolute differences in metastatic disease and prostate cancer death.

Results We analysed 302 patients with complete follow-up during a median of 24 years. Median preoperative PSA was 9.8 ng/mL and median age was 65 years. For patients without biochemical recurrence 5 years after radical prostatectomy the 20-year probability of biochemical recurrence was 25% among men with Gleason score ≤3+4=7 and 57% among men with Gleason score ≥4+3=7; the probabilities for metastases were 0.8% and 17%; and for prostate cancer death 0.8% and 12%, respectively. The long-term probabilities were higher for pT ≥3 versus pT2 and for positive versus negative surgical margins. Limitations include small size of the cohort.

Conclusion Many patients with favourable histopathology without biochemical recurrence 5 years after radical prostatectomy could stop follow-up earlier than 10 years after radical prostatectomy.