Paul F. Schellhammer, MD

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Contemporary Management of Prostate Cancer With Lethal Potential

June 1st 2004

Screening for prostate cancer by determining serum prostate-specificantigen (PSA) levels has resulted in a stage migration such thatpatients with high-risk disease are more likely to be candidates for curativelocal therapy. By combining serum PSA, clinical stage, and biopsyinformation-both Gleason score and volume of tumor in the biopsycores-specimen pathologic stage and patient biochemical disease-freesurvival can be estimated. This information can help patients and cliniciansunderstand the severity of disease and the need for multimodaltherapy, often in the context of a clinical trial. While the mainstays oftreatment for local disease control are radical prostatectomy and radiationtherapy, systemic therapy must be considered as well. A randomizedtrial has shown a survival benefit for radical prostatectomy inpatients with positive lymph nodes who undergo immediate adjuvantandrogen deprivation. Clinical trials are needed to clarify whether adjuvantradiation therapy after surgery confers a survival benefit. PSAis a sensitive marker for follow-up after local treatment and has proventhat conventional external-beam irradiation alone is inadequate treatmentfor high-risk disease. Fortunately, the technology of radiationdelivery has been dramatically improved with tools such as three-dimensionalconformal radiation, intensity-modulated radiation therapy,and high-dose-rate brachytherapy. The further contributions of pelvicirradiation and neoadjuvant, concurrent, and adjuvant androgen deprivationtherapy have been defined in clinical trials. Future managementof high-risk prostate cancer may be expanded by clinical trialsevaluating neoadjuvant and/or adjuvant chemotherapy in combinationwith androgen deprivation.