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C K M Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51 The role of prostate specific antigen measurement in the detection and management of prostate cancer A...

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M Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51

The role of prostate specific antigen measurement in the detection and management of prostate cancer A F Nash and I Melezinek Medical Research Department, AstraZeneca, Alderley Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK10 4TG, UK (Requests for offprints should be addressed to A F Nash)

Abstract The introduction of prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing has revolutionised the early detection, management and follow-up of patients with prostate cancer and it is considered to be one of the best biochemical markers currently available in the field of oncology. Its use with annual digital rectal examination in prostate cancer screening programmes has led to a marked change in the distribution of stage at presentation towards earlier disease and has led to a significant increase in the detection of potentially curable disease. In order to improve the specificity of PSA testing and thereby reduce the number of unnecessary prostatic biopsies, a number of refinements of PSA evaluation have been proposed. These include free to total PSA ratio, PSA density, PSA density of the transition zone, PSA velocity and age-specific PSA reference ranges. The utility of these approaches is considered in this review. The role of PSA monitoring in the detection of recurrence following radical prostatectomy and radiotherapy is discussed, as well as its role in monitoring patients treated with endocrine therapy in terms of correlating PSA response with outcome, in detecting disease progression and in guiding the use of subsequent therapies. Large continuing multicentre screening and outcome studies will provide important information enabling greater refinement of the use of this important diagnostic and monitoring tool in the future detection and management of prostate cancer. Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51

Introduction

Physiology and metabolism of PSA

Prostate cancer represents a major global public health issue resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. The American Cancer Society predicted that in 1997 approximately 209 000 men would be diagnosed with prostate cancer and approximately 42 000 men would die from the disease (Wingo et al. 1997). The disease is now the second commonest cause of cancer-related death in men (Boring et al. 1994) and its incidence continues to rise in most regions of the world. Indeed, it is estimated that by the year 2000 the number of cases diagnosed worldwide will be approximately 500 000 (Boyle 1994). Widespread testing of serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) has been available for little more than a decade and in this short space of time has almost certainly contributed to the increased detection of prostate cancer observed. In addition, it has rapidly found a place in the routine follow-up of patients treated with radical therapies and endocrine therapy and has superseded the use of serum prostatic acid phosphatase as a disease marker.

PSA is a 33 kDa single chain glycoprotein first identified in seminal plasma in 1971 by Hara et al. and subsequently isolated from prostatic tissue in 1979 by Wang et al.; it is a serine protease (Lilja 1985, Watt et al. 1986) with extensive structural similarity to the glandular kallikreins (Watt et al. 1986, Lundwall & Lilja 1987, Schaller et al. 1987). It is produced by prostatic secretory epithelium and is one of the most abundant proteins in seminal plasma where it is found in concentrations of 0.2–5.0 mg/ml (Sensabaugh 1978). This level is approximately a million-fold higher than in serum, where the normal range is 0.1–4 ng/ml. In addition to the prostate, PSA production has been detected at very low levels in periurethral glands (Frazier et al. 1992, Takayama et al. 1994) and, using ultrasensitive assays, very low levels of PSA have been detected in women (Yu et al. 1995, Ellis et al. 1997). PSA contributes to the process of liquefaction of semen through hydrolysis of semenogelin (Schellhammer & Wright 1993).

Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51 1351-0088/00/007–037  2000 Society for Endocrinology Printed in Great Britain

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M Nash and Melezinek: PSA in the detection and management of prostate cancer PSA is predominantly found in serum in 3 different molecular forms: (a) free PSA, molecular mass 30 kDa, (b) bound to alpha-2-macroglobulin (A2M-PSA), molecular mass 780 kDa or (c) bound to alpha-anti-chymotrypsin (ACT-PSA), molecular mass 90 kDa (Christensson et al. 1990, Lilja et al. 1991). Both A2M and ACT are extracellular protease inhibitors synthesised by the liver and are present in 104–105 molar excess to PSA in serum. PSA is also bound in trace amounts to alpha-1-antitrypsin and interalpha trypsin inhibitor (Lilja 1993, McCormack et al. 1995) but these forms are not thought to be of clinical relevance. Complex formation with alpha-1-antichymotrypsin results in exposure of a limited number of the antigenic epitopes of PSA, whereas complex formation with alpha-2-macroglobulin encapsulates the currently identifiable antigenic epitopes of PSA. As such, ACT-PSA can be detected by PSA assays whereas A2M-PSA cannot (Christensson et al. 1990). ACTPSA is the predominant immunoreactive form in serum, whereas free PSA, which constitutes 5–30% of immunoreactive PSA, is believed to be inactive (Lilja et al. 1991, Stenman et al. 1991). The clinical relevance of free PSA, complexed PSA and the ratios of these to total PSA is discussed further in this review. The metabolism of PSA is not fully understood. Free PSA has a relatively low molecular weight and it is likely that it is eliminated by renal clearance. Following radical prostatectomy, the elimination of free PSA is consistent with a two compartment model with an initial half-life of approximately 2–3 h for the first 4 h after removal of the gland, followed by a half life of approximately 20–25 h thereafter (Partin et al. 1993). By contrast, ACT-PSA has a half-life of 2–3 days in blood (Stamey et al. 1993, Oesterling et al. 1995), and the liver appears to be the most likely site of its metabolism (Agha et al. 1996).

Role of PSA in the screening and detection of prostate cancer

Incidence of prostate cancer A considerable increase in the incidence of disease was noted following the introduction of screening, reaching an ageadjusted maximum of approximately 4 per 100 000 in white men in 1992 and 6 per 100 000 in African Americans in 1993. These peaks are followed by a decline in the incidence up until the end of 1994 when data were last available. This profile is consistent with what would be expected from a successful screening programme, where the increase in incidence reflects detection of previously undiagnosed asymptomatic cases, followed by a fall in incidence towards what is likely to represent the true underlying incidence of the disease.

Age at diagnosis Age at diagnosis of prostate cancer has fallen since the introduction of PSA screening. Prior to PSA screening the mean age at diagnosis was 72.0 years for whites and 70.1 years for African Americans; this fell to 69.2 and 67.3 years respectively following the introduction of screening.

Population-specific issues

Stage of disease at presentation

The American Urological Association and the American Cancer Society recommend screening for all men over the age of 50 with annual digital rectal examinations and assessment of PSA (Von Eschenbach et al. 1997). Elsewhere in the world, however, population screening for prostate cancer is not available and this difference reflects continuing debate about the value and cost effectiveness of prostate cancer screening. Prostate cancer is a heterogeneous disease which at one extreme can be a highly aggressive malignant disease likely to kill the patient and at the other extreme a benign incidental finding that will not lead to morbidity or mortality. Indeed, histological evidence of prostatic carcinoma can be found in 30–40% of men aged >50 years (Scardino et al. 1992) and more men die with prostate cancer rather than

The majority of new cases diagnosed since the advent of PSA screening have been organ-confined disease, both in whites and in African Americans. There has also been an increase in the number of patients with locally advanced disease, whereas the incidence of distant metastatic disease has declined in both races.

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because of it. The objective of prostate cancer screening is to identify patients with prostate cancer for whom intervention will prevent premature death from the disease and as such an effective screening programme should reduce disease-specific mortality. Information on this key issue has been provided by the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) programme. This was set up in 1973 by the National Cancer Institute in order to collect cancer incidence, treatment and survival data in 11 regions across the United States, covering approximately 14% of the US population. Since the introduction of PSA screening in the US in the late 1980s the following trends in incidence, age at presentation, tumour characteristics and mortality have been observed (Farkas et al. 1998).

Tumour grade The majority of cases diagnosed following the introduction of PSA screening have moderately well-differentiated disease and this is true for both races. There has also been an increase in poorly differentiated disease detected in African Americans but not in the white population. Downloaded from Bioscientifica.com at 10/24/2018 03:37:45PM www.endocrinology.org via free access

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M Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51 The increased detection of patients with organ-confined moderately differentiated disease is encouraging since these patients are likely to have clinically significant disease which is potentially amenable to cure (Humphrey et al. 1996, Farkas et al. 1998). Indeed, it has been estimated that between 22 000 and 29 000 of such cases per annum in the US have been detected since the advent of prostate cancer screening (Farkas et al. 1998).

Disease-specific mortality The overall age-adjusted mortality rate peaked in 1991 and a 6.7% decline was observed by 1995, representing a decline of approximately 1.8 deaths per 100 000 men per year (Hoeksema & Law 1996). Whether cancer screening per se has led to this reduction in cancer-specific mortality is unknown. Interpretation of cancer survival data is hampered by two forms of bias namely ‘lead time bias’ and ‘length time bias’. Lead time bias refers to the situation where survival is apparently prolonged because the diagnosis was made earlier, rather than because death was delayed. Length time bias refers to the situation whereby PSA screening may identify slower growing tumours and hence apparent survival is longer due to the detection of these slower growing tumours. Another important factor which may have had a bearing on the reduction of prostate cancer death is the change in clinical practice with respect to the management of organ-confined disease that has taken place over the last twenty years. In 1974, 9.2% of all prostate cancer patients in the US were treated by radical prostatectomy whereas by 1993 this proportion had increased to 29.2% (Mettlin et al. 1997). The first randomised trial to assess the benefits of prostate cancer screening was conducted in Quebec and included over 46 000 men (Labrie et al. 1999). The group sizes were unequal, as only 23% of men randomised to be screened did in fact undergo screening. Of the 8137 men screened, 5 subjects died of prostate cancer compared with 137 of 38 056 men who did not undergo screening. The prostate cancer death rates during the eight-year period were 48.7 and 15 per 100 000 man-years in the unscreened and screened groups respectively, which constitutes a 3.25 odds ratio in favour of screening and early treatment (P = <0.01). The methods of analysis and resulting conclusions from this study have been the subject of considerable debate (Alexander & Prescott 1999, Boer & Schroder 1999, Labrie & Candas 1999a,b). There are two further current randomised trials which will provide additional information on the value of prostate cancer screening, the Prostate Lung Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) trial of the National Cancer Institute (Gohagan et al. 1994) and the European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC, Schro¨der et al. 1999); results are, however, not expected before 2005.

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In summary, the introduction of screening for prostate cancer with annual PSA measurement and digital rectal examination has led to an increase in the detection of potentially curable cancers. The recent fall in cancer-specific mortality is encouraging although the extent to which different forms of bias and changes in clinical practice have affected this observation is unknown. Continued follow-up of population statistics and the results of the continuing randomised screening studies will be needed to confirm that prostate cancer screening does indeed reduce cancer-specific mortality.

PSA screening – patient-specific issues PSA is a protein that is expressed in the normal prostate gland and the normal range is taken as 0–4 ng/ml. Elevated levels of PSA are found in patients with a range of prostatic diseases including cancer, benign hypertrophy, prostatitis and prostatic infarction (Papsidero et al. 1980). Studies have indicated that approximately 80% of patients with proven prostate cancer and 30% of patients with benign prostatic hypertrophy have serum PSA concentrations above 4 ng/ml (Stamey et al. 1987, Catalona et al. 1991, 1994a). Elevated serum PSA levels have also been found following ejaculation in some studies (Moyad et al. 1994, Tchetgen et al. 1996, Herschman et al. 1997) although Netto et al. (1996) found no such association. In addition, surgical instrumentation has also been associated with elevated serum PSA levels (Yuan et al. 1992). In view of these confounding factors, the serum PSA test for detection of prostate cancer is less sensitive and less specific than is desirable; indeed, with a PSA cut-off of 4–10 ng/ml, only one in four men will have cancer detected on sextant biopsy. In a screening trial involving 6630 men, the positive predictive value of the PSA test increased from approximately 10% in men with a PSA <4 ng/ml, to greater than 80% in men with a PSA >20 ng/ml (Catalona et al. 1994a). In this study, most patients with mildly elevated PSA levels had organ-confined disease but over a half with PSA values greater than 10 ng/ml had advanced disease, hence the detection of organ-confined and therefore potentially curable prostate cancer requires low PSA cut-off points for screening. Regrettably, the specificity of the test at such low concentrations is relatively poor, necessitating high levels of unnecessary biopsies. In order to increase the specificity of PSA testing whilst retaining high sensitivity, particularly in the diagnostic grey zone of 2.5–10 ng/ml, a number of refinements of PSA evaluation have been proposed, including the measurement of the free/total PSA ratio, PSA density, PSA velocity and the use of age-specific PSA reference ranges. These are discussed further below.

Free/total PSA ratio The ratio of ACT-PSA/total PSA was first observed to be higher in patients with prostate cancer than benign prostatic Downloaded from Bioscientifica.com at 10/24/2018 03:37:45PM via free access

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M Nash and Melezinek: PSA in the detection and management of prostate cancer hypertrophy by Stenman et al. (1991), although the accuracy of free PSA assays in comparison with assays of the ACTPSA complex suggests that better discrimination is obtained by using the free to total PSA ratio instead of the complexed to total PSA ratio (Christensson et al. 1993, Pettersson et al. 1995). The reason for this finding is unknown although it may be related, in part, to local production of ACT by prostate cancer cells, but not by benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) cells, which then complexes with PSA at the point of secretion (Bjork et al. 1994). Several studies have investigated the utility of assessing the free to total PSA ratio in the detection of prostate cancer. These have generally shown that it is a useful test to discriminate between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hypertrophy, the ratio being lower in prostate cancer and higher in benign prostatic hypertrophy (Catalona et al. 1995, Partin et al. 1996a, Chen et al. 1996, Prestigiacomo et al. 1996). Consideration should also be given to the possibility of underlying asymptomatic chronic prostatitis in which a reduced free to total PSA ratio has also been observed (Jung et al. 1998). A number of cut-offs have been applied in studies of free to total PSA ratios ranging from 14%–28% in order to maintain a sensitivity of at least 90%, and these have resulted in specificities ranging from 19%–64%, i.e. using specific cut-off points in these studies to determine whether or not to perform a biopsy would prevent 19%–64% of the negative biopsies for cancer. Variations in outcome across studies may be accounted for by differences in study designs and subject populations, and an excellent review of this topic was written by Woodrum and colleagues (1998). Some of the key factors which influence the results and conclusions of clinical studies of the free to total PSA ratio include the following.

Age Mean total and free PSA have been shown to increase with age (Luderer et al. 1995) and in one study the percentage free PSA increased with age (Partin et al. 1996a) although this was not confirmed by Oesterling et al. (1995).

Total PSA The probability of being diagnosed with cancer and having advanced cancer increases with increasing total PSA levels (Catalona et al. 1993, 1994a). Moreover, the positive predictive value (PPV) of total PSA in the detection of cancer also increases such that at total PSA values in excess of 10–20 ng/ml the PPV is up to 80%. As such, the free to total PSA ratio provides little useful additional information compared with total PSA over this range but has shown usefulness over the range 2.5–10 ng/ml.

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Prostate volume Prostate volume influences the selection of an appropriate cut-off value (Catalona et al. 1995, Partin et al. 1996a, Van Cangh et al. 1996), such that increasing prostatic volume is associated with increased mean percentage free PSA. The proportion of small and large glands in the study population will, therefore, affect the selection of cut-offs and the associated sensitivity and specificity associated with these cut-offs. Other factors of relevance include, but are not limited to, race, biopsy history, digital rectal examination findings and the assay method used. Large multicentre trials that take these various factors into account will be needed to provide more reliable assayspecific cut-off points and probability determinations to improve the ability of the free to total PSA ratio to discriminate between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hypertrophy.

PSA density The concept of using PSA density, calculated from total PSA and prostate volume, to differentiate between prostate cancer and benign prostatic hypertrophy was first raised by Benson and colleagues in 1992. The basis for using this approach lies in the fact that unmolested benign epithelial cells in continuity with prostatic ducts will not leak as much PSA into the serum as a cancer cell, which is not part of a duct to act as a conduit for secretions. In addition, the concept supposes that the concentration of PSA per benign cell shows less variability than that seen in cancer cells. Therefore, for any given prostate volume there should be a limit to the number of prostate cells that can be accommodated and consequently an upper limit to serum PSA of benign origin. Once this level is passed, it is assumed that the gland is occupied by cancer cells. In a study of 61 patients with prostate disease clinically confined to the prostate gland, PSA density assessed using either magnetic resonance imaging of BPH or the dimensions of the surgical specimen was higher in patients with cancer than those with BPH, 0.581 vs 0.044 respectively; 41 patients had prostate cancer and 20 had BPH. Of 34 patients with a PSA density of >0.1, 33 had prostate cancer. The ability of PSA density to predict cancer was less useful between 0.05 and 0.15 where 6 patients had cancer and 5 had BPH. Moreover, 2 patients with cancer had values less than 0.05 (Benson et al. 1992). A cut-off of 0.15 has been advocated as useful in discriminating between prostate cancer and BPH (Bazinet et al. 1994, Keetch et al. 1996), although some studies have shown no benefit in using this approach (Brawer et al. 1993, Catalona et al. 1994b). Indeed, in a study of nearly 5000 men, the use of a PSA density >0.15 to detect early prostate cancer increased specificity but at the cost of missing half of the

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M Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51 tumours (Catalona et al. 1994b). Accurate estimation of prostate volume was found to be difficult such that a correlation coefficient of only 0.61 for estimated transrectal ultrasound volume versus pathological prostate weight was observed. The authors concluded that for men with a PSA level of 4.1–9.9 ng/ml and normal digital rectal examination and transrectal ultrasound findings, the decision to biopsy should be based upon serum PSA rather than PSA density. A further refinement of the use of PSA density assessments involves the use of transition zone prostate PSA density. The concept derives from the observation that in the benign prostate most PSA leaking into the serum comes from the transition zone (Hammerer et al. 1995). BPH results from hyperplasia of the transition zone and, therefore, peripheral gland production of PSA is relatively constant as the gland enlarges due to BPH (Lepor et al. 1994, Hammerer et al. 1995). Above a PSA transition zone cut-off value, it becomes unlikely that BPH accounts for the increase in PSA and, therefore, prostate cancer should be suspected. A cut-off of 0.35 ng/ml has been proposed for discriminating between patients with cancer or BPH (Creasy et al. 1997, Zlotta et al. 1997). A number of studies have shown that transition zone PSA density enhances the prediction of prostate cancer in men with a serum PSA of 4–10 ng/ml (Kurita et al. 1996, Creasy et al. 1997, Horninger et al. 1997, Zlotta et al. 1997). Djavan et al. (1998) reported that the use of a lower transition zone PSA density cut-off of 0.25 enhanced the specificity of serum PSA for prostate cancer detection in referred patients with a serum PSA of 4–10 ng/ml, and was more useful than PSA density of the whole prostate, percentage free PSA and PSA velocity, but only when the gland volume exceeded 30 ml. Using a 95% sensitivity for prostate cancer detection, 47% of unnecessary biopsies would have been avoided using PSA transition zone density compared with 32% for the free to total PSA ratio. In view of the fact that PSA transition zone density may be unhelpful in patients with small prostates, the use of this technique is likely to be of limited value in screening populations in which prostate gland sizes are anticipated to be small. The technique may have more value in patients with lower urinary tract symptoms, a serum PSA of 4–10 ng/ml and a prostate larger than 30 ml. As with PSA density of the whole gland, the technique is limited by the cost and invasiveness of transrectal ultrasound assessments and concerns over the reproducibility of measurements. Moreover, some clinicians believe that if patients are already undergoing transrectal ultrasound measurements, there is little additional morbidity involved in performing biopsies at the same time. Overall, PSA density assessments either of the whole gland or of the transition zone have shown promise in enhancing the ability to discriminate between cancer and BPH. To date their use has not, however, been widely

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adopted by the urological community and further studies are needed to define their potential place in clinical practice.

PSA velocity The use of PSA velocity to distinguish between men with and without prostate cancer was first proposed by Carter et al. (1992). In a retrospective study they observed that the rate of increase in PSA rise was higher in patients with prostate cancer than those with BPH. A high PSA velocity, as defined by greater than 0.75 ng/ml per year, was observed in patients with prostate cancer for up to 9 years before the disease was clinically apparent (Carter et al. 1992). Application of this technique is limited, however, by the intrinsic biological variability of PSA testing and by the need to maintain the same assay manufacturer (Smith & Catalona 1994, Kadmon et al. 1996). In one study, 12.5% of men had a single annual PSA increase of greater than 0.75 ng/ml per year; however when the entire observation period of 2 years was considered, only one individual had a persistent PSA increase of greater than 0.75 ng/ml per year (Kadmon et al. 1996). In view of this, it is prudent to measure PSA on at least 3 separate occasions over a period of at least 18 months. Overall, PSA velocity may be of most use in patients whose serum PSA is in the normal range at initial screening, but it is less helpful in determining whether patients with a PSA between 4–10 ng/ ml should be biopsied.

Age-specific reference ranges A direct correlation between serum PSA and patient age has been reported by a number of investigators (Collins et al. 1993, Oesterling et al. 1993). Oesterling et al. (1993) showed that for a 60-year-old man the serum PSA level increases by approximately 0.04 ng/ml per year, which in their study was 3.2%. Using the 95th percentile to establish the upper limit of normal for serum PSA, they determined reference ranges for different age groups (Table 1). Other investigators have proposed similar age-specific reference ranges (Dalkin et al. 1993, Crawford 1994). Oesterling et al. (1993) hypothesised that age-specific reference ranges would increase the sensitivity of PSA in the detection of cancer in younger men at a stage when the disease is potentially amenable to cure with surgery, whilst detecting fewer cancers in older men who

Table 1 Age-specific PSA reference ranges Age (years)

PSA range (ng/ml)

40–49 50–59 60–69 70–79

0.0–2.5 0.0–3.5 0.0–4.5 0.0–6.5

Data from Oesterling et al. (1993).

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M Nash and Melezinek: PSA in the detection and management of prostate cancer may have clinically insignificant tumours. However, conflicting data on the utility of age-specific ranges for the detection of cancer have been reported. In a screening study of 1726 men, Bangma et al. (1995) observed that using agespecific PSA reference ranges and digital rectal examination as indicators for biopsy, a reduction of 37% of biopsies would have been obtained but with a loss of detected cancers of 12%. Catalona et al. (1994c) evaluated the use of agespecific reference ranges in a screening study of 6630 men and observed that in men aged 50–59 a lower cut-off (3.5 ng/ml) would have resulted in a 45% increase in the number of biopsies being carried out, with a projected 15% increase in cancer detection. In men aged 70 years or older, the use of a higher cut-off (6.5 ng/ml) would result in 44% fewer biopsies being carried out but would miss 47% of the organconfined cancers. They concluded that a serum PSA of 4 ng/ ml should be used as a general guideline for biopsy in all age groups. By contrast, in a study by Oesterling et al. (1995), 5.5% of 1686 biopsies would have been avoided by the use of age-specific ranges with only 0.6% of tumours not being detected, the majority of which were unlikely to be clinically relevant, a finding confirmed in a study by Partin et al. (1996b). Given the conflicting data on the value of age-specific reference ranges and the concern that their use could lead to an increase in unnecessary biopsies in younger men whilst in older men delaying the diagnosis of potentially curable disease, their use in clinical practice remains controversial.

Finasteride Finasteride is a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor for use in the management of benign prostatic hypertrophy. It reduces the production of dihydrotestosterone leading to prostate gland shrinkage, and reduces serum PSA levels by approximately 50% (Gormley et al. 1992). Studies have indicated that in men treated with finasteride, doubling the PSA and using normal ranges for untreated men preserves the usefulness of PSA in the detection of prostate cancer (Oesterling et al. 1997, Andriole et al. 1998). In summary, whilst total PSA remains the gold standard for prostate cancer detection, the use of a number of refinements of PSA evaluation, in particular the free to total PSA ratio may provide additional useful information in particular subgroups of patients. Further studies will be needed, however, to define more accurately their potential utility in clinical practice.

Role of PSA monitoring in the management of prostate cancer In addition to its use in the detection of prostate cancer, assessment of PSA is carried out in order to assess patients’ response to primary curative therapies such as surgery or radiotherapy and to endocrine therapy, and also for the long

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term follow-up of patients to detect the presence of disease recurrence or progression.

PSA monitoring post-radical prostatectomy Following radical surgery, a post-operative PSA level of 0.1 ng/ml is generally taken to indicate disease recurrence, either local disease in the pelvis or distant metastases, and this biochemical failure predates the onset of clinically evident disease by months or even years (Stein et al. 1992). The incidence of biochemical relapse following surgery is influenced by a number of factors such as tumour stage, the presence or absence of positive surgical margins, tumour grade and pre-treatment PSA. Catalona & Smith (1994) reported on a series of 925 consecutive men undergoing radical retropubic prostatectomy in which the 5 year probability of non-progression as defined by PSA recurrence was 78%. Non-progression correlated with tumour stage; the 5 year probability of non-progression was 91% for organ-confined disease, 74% for patients with positive surgical margins or minimal capsular perforation, 32% if seminal vesicle invasion occurred and virtually zero if lymph node metastases were evident. With respect to tumour grade, the 5 year probability of non-progression was 89% for well-differentiated disease, 78% for moderately differentiated disease and 51% for poorly differentiated disease. For men with a normal pre-operative PSA and those with a pre-treatment PSA >10 ng/ml, the figures were 95% and 71% respectively. Other series have demonstrated a 5 and 10 year freedom from biochemical recurrence of 83% and 70% respectively (Partin et al. 1993) and 69% and 47% respectively (Trapasso et al. 1994). In the latter report, the authors noted that postprostatectomy PSA doubling times were significantly shorter for patients who ultimately progressed to develop distant metastases (median 4.3 months) than for those with either clinically evident local disease recurrence or a PSA elevation as the sole indicator of recurrence (median 11.7 months). In a series of 539 men undergoing radical prostatectomy, Pruthi et al. (1997) observed that the median PSA doubling time for 80 men whose PSA was initially undetectable and subsequently increased, was 284 days and the median time to biochemical recurrence was 648 days. The authors suggested that PSA doubling time and time to recurrence are indicative of different biological characteristics of recurrent prostate cancer, with doubling time appearing to reflect the aggressiveness of the original prostate cancer, whereas time to recurrence reflects the extent of residual post-operative disease. Commercial PSA assays currently available have a sensitivity of approximately 0.1 ng/ml (Chan et al. 1987, Takayama et al. 1993). Values below this cannot be accurately distinguished from zero and are usually reported as <0.1 ng/ml. More recently, ultrasensitive PSA assays with much lower detection limits have been developed. Using an ultrasensitive chemiluminescent assay, Ellis et al. (1997) Downloaded from Bioscientifica.com at 10/24/2018 03:37:45PM www.endocrinology.org via free access

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M Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51 demonstrated that the residual disease detection limit following radical prostatectomy is approximately 30 pg/ml. Below this cut-off, PSA derived from non-malignant sources can be detected. In principle, the use of ultrasensitive PSA assays could facilitate the earlier detection of relapse and enable earlier therapeutic intervention. Indeed, studies have shown that earlier detection of relapse can be achieved by monitoring PSA in the range 0.01–0.1 ng/ml (Stamey et al. 1993, Yu et al. 1995). Moreover, Yu et al. (1997) found that increases in postoperative serum PSA levels of 0.001–0.1 ng/ ml after radical prostatectomy are associated with clinicopathological features of poor prognosis. It is likely, however, that at very low levels of PSA, a PSA trend or doubling time may prove to be more important in detecting persistent prostate cancer since a very low, detectable yet stable, level may indicate freedom from disease, whereas a low but rising PSA may be indicative of treatment failure. There is now a growing body of evidence which supports the use of adjuvant endocrine therapy in patients who have undergone radical prostatectomy. Wirth et al. (1997) reported on a prospective trial of 365 patients with stage C cancer treated with radical prostatectomy and randomised to receive adjuvant therapy with the non-steroidal antiandrogen, flutamide, or no adjuvant therapy. The estimated rate of tumour recurrence based upon Kaplan-Meier estimates at 4 years was 10% in the adjuvant group compared with 31% in the nonadjuvant group (P = 0.0023). More recently, Messing et al. (1999) reported the results of a randomised prospective trial of 98 men with node positive prostate cancer following radical prostatectomy and pelvic lymphadenectomy who were randomised to receive immediate castration with goserelin or surgery, or observation followed by hormonal therapy at the time of disease recurrence/progression. After a median follow-up of 7.2 years, 13% of men in the early hormonal therapy group had died compared with 34% in the observation group (P = <0.01), and only 18% of patients in the early hormonal therapy group had evidence of disease recurrence compared with 75% in the observation group (P = <0.001). Large prospective randomised studies to define further the benefits of endocrine therapy as an adjuvant to radical prostatectomy are under way. In particular, the bicalutamide (Casodex) early prostate cancer programme of studies in which monotherapy with the non-steroidal antiandrogen, bicalutamide (150 mg), is compared with placebo, predominantly in patients receiving radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy, has recruited in excess of 8000 patients worldwide. Endpoints include clinical progression and survival, and results are expected early in the next decade. If significant benefit is demonstrated in these studies, there will be a further impetus to detect earlier those patients who have not been cured by radical surgery and to introduce adjuvant therapy at an even earlier stage. In this regard, the use of ultrasensitive PSA assays is likely to take on a more prominent role in the routine follow-up of post-operative patients.

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PSA monitoring post-radiotherapy Radiotherapy is an alternative radical therapy to prostatectomy for the management of clinically localised disease and is also employed in the management of locally advanced disease. Fifteen year outcome studies by the Patterns of Care Study and the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) indicated that patients with stage T1 prostate cancer are in many cases cured by radiotherapy and approximately half of those with stage T2 cancer are cured (Hanks et al. 1994). Crook et al. (1997) showed that T stage and pre-treatment PSA are important predictors of treatment failure. They followed-up 207 patients who underwent external beam radiotherapy with systematic transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsies and measurement of serum PSA levels. They observed a total failure rate including biochemical, local and distant failure for different T stages of 12% for T1b, T1c and T2a, 39% for T2b and T2c, and 68% for T3 and T4 (P = 0.0001). With respect to pre-treatment PSA, the failure rate increased with increasing PSA such that for PSA <5 ng/ml only 3% failed, compared with 32% for values between 10 and 15 ng/ml and 88% for men with a re-treatment PSA >50 ng/ml. In this study, the post-treatment PSA nadir proved, however, to be the most predictive factor for treatment failure, with values less than 0.5 ng/ml generally indicating cure. The exact definition of recurrence following radiotherapy has been the subject of considerable debate and has varied substantially across studies. Some investigators have defined recurrence as a PSA rising above the nadir value, without specifying a specific PSA nadir value (Zagars & Pollock 1995, Stock et al. 1996). Other investigators have proposed post-radiotherapy PSA nadirs of 0.5 ng/ml (Schellhammer et al. 1993, Critz et al. 1995, 1997), 1.0 ng/ml (Lee et al. 1996, Wallner et al. 1996), 1.5 ng/ml (Hanks et al. 1994) and 4.0 ng/ml (Rosenzweig et al. 1995) to define recurrence. Critz et al. (1997) studied 660 men with clinical stage T1T2N0 prostate cancer who received combination radioactive 125I prostate implant followed by external-beam radiation, and followed them up for a median of 42 months. In analysing the data, recurrence was defined as a PSA level rising above whatever nadir was achieved. A total of 81% of all men were calculated to achieve a PSA nadir of 0.5 ng/ml or less and to have a 5 and 10 year disease-free survival rate of 93% and 83% respectively, as compared with a 5 year disease-free survival rate of 26% for those achieving a nadir of 0.6–1.0 ng/ml, the difference being statistically significant. All men with a PSA nadir greater than 1.0 ng/ml ultimately failed treatment. Based upon these data, the authors recommended a post-radiotherapy PSA nadir of <0.5 ng/ml to indicate potential cure and values above this value to indicate treatment failure. In view of the data from Crook et al. (1997) and Critz et al. (1997) together with a more recent study by Preston et al. (1999), the value of <0.5 ng/ml would appear to be a reasonable PSA nadir goal to be achieved following radiotherapy. Downloaded from Bioscientifica.com at 10/24/2018 03:37:45PM via free access

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M Nash and Melezinek: PSA in the detection and management of prostate cancer PSA monitoring of response to and follow-up with endocrine therapy The concentration of serum PSA is proportional to the clinical stage of cancer in untreated patients (Stamey et al. 1987). Following endocrine therapy, for example with medical or surgical castration or antiandrogens, the androgen stimulus is withdrawn resulting in apoptosis and consequently a reduction in the number of PSA-secreting cells and a fall in the serum PSA level. In addition, there is evidence that PSA expression may be under the influence of androgens and that androgen deprivation can reduce serum PSA expression independent of an antitumour effect (Stamey et al. 1989, Leo et al. 1991). The percentage reduction of PSA at 3 months induced in patients with advanced prostate cancer by medical or surgical castration is relatively constant across studies, ranging between 94% and 97% (Kaisary 1994, Chodak et al. 1995, Bales & Chodak 1996, Iversen et al. 1998). In contrast, the percentage reduction of PSA induced by antiandrogens is dose-dependent (Kolvenbag et al. 1998). In studies of the non-steroidal antiandrogen, bicalutamide, after 3 months treatment, dose-dependent reductions in PSA occur with incremental benefit up to levels seen with castration (Fig. 1). A tendency for the dose response to plateau when doses exceed 200 mg is consistent with the profile of the plasma steady-state drug concentration curve, which is less than linear at doses above 200 mg (Kolvenbag et al. 1998). Studies comparing bicalutamide 50 mg monotherapy with castration in more than 1100 patients with metastatic prostate cancer revealed a lower PSA fall compared with

castration and a lower number of patients with PSA in the normal range. In turn, a survival deficit of approximately 3 months was observed for the bicalutamide-treated group compared with castration. A subsequent analysis showed that the PSA level after 3 months therapy was related to outcome in terms of time to progression (Blackledge & Lowery 1994). Further comparative studies of bicalutamide at a dose of 150 mg with castration have been conducted in patients with metastatic disease and in patients with locally advanced nonmetastatic disease. The PSA fall at 3 months in these studies was not significantly different for bicalutamide 150 mg compared with castration. In patients with metastatic disease a shortfall in median survival was again observed but the deficit was only 42 days (Tyrell et al. 1998), whilst in patients with non-metastatic prostate cancer in an analysis at 31% overall mortality, bicalutamide demonstrated equivalent efficacy compared with castration (Iversen et al. 1998). Casodex has also been studied at a dose of 50 mg as part of a combined androgen blockade regimen with luteinising hormone-releasing hormone analogues (Schellhammer et al. 1997, Altwein & Schmidt 1999). The degree of PSA reduction at 3 months was 99%, which is a little higher than has been seen with castration alone. Altwein & Schmidt (1999) reported on a study of 312 men with advanced prostate cancer treated with combined Casodex 50 mg and castration, and as observed previously by Blackledge & Lowery (1994) found a significant correlation between the PSA level after 12 weeks treatment with time to progression (P = 0.0001). In addition, the PSA level at 4 weeks also correlated with time to progression (P = 0.042).

Figure 1 Median percentage reduction in prostate-specific antigen with bicalutamide 10–600 mg monotherapy and with castration.

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M Endocrine-Related Cancer (2000) 7 37–51 Whilst some studies have shown statistically significant benefits for combined androgen blockade over castration monotherapy (Crawford et al. 1989, Denis et al. 1993, Janknegt et al. 1996), other studies have been neutral (Eisenberger et al. 1998). A meta-analysis of 22 studies comparing combined androgen blockade with castration monotherapy demonstrated a small but non-significant benefit in favour of combined androgen blockade (3.5% in 5 year survival) (Prostate Cancer Trialist Collaborative Group 1995). Other meta-analyses have shown a statistically significant benefit for combined androgen blockade compared with castration monotherapy (Debruyne et al. 1996, Klotz & Newman 1996). It is possible, therefore, that the additional PSA response with combined androgen blockade therapy compared with castration is a surrogate for additional efficacy, although this is controversial. Overall, these studies of androgen deprivation with antiandrogen or castration monotherapy and with combination therapy lend support to the hypothesis that the degree of PSA fall in patients treated with endocrine therapy correlates with outcome in terms of time to progression and survival. The response rate of prostate cancer to endocrine therapy generally exceeds 70%. However, within 12–18 months almost all patients with advanced disease develop androgen independence (Lu et al. 1997), generally preceded by an increase in serum PSA (Miller et al. 1992). The exact mechanisms underlying androgen independence are still being elucidated but may include the development of androgen receptor mutations (Culig et al. 1997) and androgen receptor amplification (Visakorpi et al. 1995). Animal data in androgen-dependent tumours demonstrated that repeated intermittent cycles of androgen withdrawal prolonged time to androgen independence compared with continuous androgen withdrawal (Akakura et al. 1993, Gleave et al. 1994). This led to the concept of giving intermittent endocrine therapy in patients with advanced and locally advanced disease and this management strategy has been evaluated in a number of small non-comparative trials (Goldenberg et al. 1995, Tunn 1996). An integral part of this approach involves PSA monitoring whereby cycles of endocrine therapy are reinstituted when the serum PSA off therapy reaches a pre-defined threshold. A number of large trials comparing intermittent endocrine therapy with continuous endocrine therapy are in progress and will shed light on the utility of this approach in the management of advanced prostate cancer, although results are not expected for a number of years. Following the emergence of androgen independence, a number of second line therapies may be initiated including second antiandrogens, both steroidal and non-steroidal, adrenal inhibitors, cytotoxic agents, etc. Kelly et al. (1993) demonstrated in a study of 110 men with hormone refractory prostate cancer treated with a variety of different regimens, a significant improvement in median survival in patients with

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a 50% or greater decline in PSA compared with a less than 50% decline after treatment (21 vs 8 months, P = 0.0002). Other studies have confirmed an association between PSA fall and outcome (Pienta et al. 1994, Sella et al. 1994). In most trials of new agents, a 50% fall in PSA defines a PSA response. However, the usefulness of PSA response in the evaluation of new therapies has been the subject of considerable debate, as a PSA response does not necessarily correlate with a measurable disease response (Scher et al. 1990). Walls et al. (1996) studied the effect of a differentiating agent, phenylacetate, on human prostatic carcinoma LNCaP cells and showed that the drug induced PSA production despite inhibition of tumour cell proliferation. Further, in a study of the effects of suramin in castrated nude mice injected with an androgen-independent human prostate cancer cell line, growth of tumour was not affected whilst the ratio of PSA to tumour volume was significantly decreased (Thalmann et al. 1996). Overall, these data suggest that declines in PSA in this setting may be treatment specific and that the exclusive use of PSA response as a criterion for disease response may not always be appropriate.

Future perspectives A number of recent initiatives in the field of PSA research may be of utility in the detection, staging and management of patients with prostate cancer. Reverse transcriptasepolymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays for PSAexpressing cells in the blood circulation have been under investigation since 1992. Whilst a number of groups have reported that a positive RT-PCR for PSA in peripheral blood correlated with extraprostatic disease and recurrence (Katz et al. 1994, 1996, Ghossein et al. 1995, 1997, Olsson et al. 1996), other groups have found no such correlation (Sokoloff et al. 1996, Ignatoff et al. 1997, Melchior et al. 1997). In addition to circulating PSA-expressing cells, studies of bone marrow PSA-expressing cells have been conducted. Wood et al. (1994) showed that bone marrow RT-PCR PSA positivity significantly correlated with extraprostatic disease and that patients with positive bone marrow RT-PCR PSA results had significantly shorter disease-free survival than those with a negative result. More recently, Gao et al. (1999) showed that bone marrow RT-PCR PSA positivity was associated with early disease recurrence but found no association with pathological stage, grade or margin positivity. In addition to circulating and bone marrow PSA-expressing cells, the roles of circulating and bone marrow prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) and human glandular kallikrein (HK2)expressing cells in the detection of occult metastases are under investigation. HK2, like PSA, is prostate tissuespecific and androgen-dependent and its protein sequence shares 80% homology with PSA. It has been observed that, in some cancer patients, HK2 message can be detected in the absence of detectable PSA message expression (Corey et al. Downloaded from Bioscientifica.com at 10/24/2018 03:37:45PM via free access

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M Nash and Melezinek: PSA in the detection and management of prostate cancer 1997, Kawakami et al. 1997) and it may be an important marker for the progression of poorly differentiated prostate cancer and development of hormone resistance (Kawakami et al. 1997). Further studies will be needed to determine whether the various circulating and bone marrow parameters under evaluation provide independent prognostic information.

Summary The worldwide incidence of prostate cancer is increasing, in part due to screening, although increased public awareness and dietary changes may have a part to play. With its current rate of growth it is clear that prostate cancer will represent an increasingly important public health problem as we move into the new millennium. One of the principal challenges facing clinicians charged with the management of prostate cancer is to ensure that cancers which need to be treated are detected, particularly when the disease is potentially curable. In this regard, the increased detection by PSA and digital rectal examination of organ-confined moderately differentiated cancers in the US is encouraging and it is hoped that this will lead to a further reduction in cancer-specific mortality. Further, and perhaps just as important, there is a need for better prognostic information in order to predict those patients who are likely to have good survival and for whom radical intervention may be inappropriate. The specificity of PSA testing in the detection of cancer is relatively low although it is hoped that further studies on a number of refinements of PSA evaluation may be helpful in differentiating cancer from benign disease and reducing the need for unnecessary further diagnostic tests. PSA testing will remain an integral component of the assessment of response to radical therapy and endocrine therapy where it provides important prognostic information regarding subsequent outcome, and also in the follow-up of these patients in order to detect recurrence/progression. Given that prostate cancer is a slow growing disease and PSA testing has only been available for just over a decade, our knowledge of the correlation of PSA assessment with disease outcome is, however, still somewhat limited. The emergence of new data will serve to refine further our understanding of the use of this most valuable marker in the detection, staging and management of patients with prostate cancer.

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