Purpose: We determined whether the high biochemical failure rate in men with Gleason score 7 disease and positive surgical margins after radical retropubic prostatectomy is secondary to distant metastasis or to local tumor recurrence that could be eliminated by immediate adjuvant radiation therapy.
Materials and methods: Between 1982 and 1997, 112 men with Gleason score 7 disease and positive surgical margins but no seminal vesicle or lymph node involvement underwent radical retropubic prostatectomy without immediate adjuvant radiation or hormonal therapy. Median followup was 8 years (range 1 to 16) and 45 men (40%) were followed 10 years or more. Kaplan-Meier actuarial survival estimates were used to determine the actuarial 5 and 10-year post-prostatectomy, and 5-year post-radiation recurrence rates.
Results: The actuarial 5 and 10-year post-prostatectomy biochemical, local and distant recurrence rates were 40% and 52%, 6% and 6%, and 7% and 16%, respectively. For 20 men who received radiation therapy for isolated prostate specific antigen elevation actuarial 5-year post-radiation biochemical recurrence-free rate was 34%. For 5 men who received radiation therapy for local recurrence actuarial 5-year post-radiation biochemical recurrence-free rate was 20%.
Conclusions: Isolated clinical local recurrence is rare during long-term followup of men with Gleason score 7 disease and positive surgical margins at radical prostatectomy. Radiation therapy given at prostate specific antigen elevation poorly controlled the disease. Because patients with biochemical failure rarely had local recurrence at long-term followup, they most likely harbored subclinical distant metastasis. These data suggest that immediate adjuvant radiation therapy will not have a major impact on outcome because most men with Gleason score 7 disease and positive surgical margins in whom treatment fails most likely had distant metastasis at surgery. To improve the outcome in cases of Gleason score 7 disease and positive surgical margins a systemic approach to adjuvant therapy is necessary.