Biochemical (Prostate-Specific Antigen) Relapse: An Oncologist's Perspective

Rev Urol. 2003;5 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S3-S13.


Consensus has not been reached on the exact definition of biochemical relapse after prostatectomy; individual institution definitions of relapse after prostatectomy range from consecutively rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) values of > 0.2 to > 0.6 ng/mL. PSA measurements after radiation are even less predictable. PSA level is a sensitive marker of occult prostate-cancer relapse and provides early notification of recurrence, but a PSA relapse does not equal a clinical relapse or death from prostate cancer. Data are reviewed from retrospective, single-institution trials that have clarified features of PSA relapse after both prostatectomy and radiation, such as the PSA doubling time and the time to the first PSA elevation, which are associated with clinical progression. Various options for treatment of biochemical relapse are also reviewed; these include hormone therapy, combined chemohormonal therapy, alternative medicine and dietary tactics, new agents, and future strategies, such as vaccination. Currently, there is no standard treatment for biochemical failure with proven benefit in terms of quality of life, time to metastases, or survival. Current options include observation for patients with long PSA doubling times or comorbid medical issues and standard or nontraditional hormone therapy or a clinical trial for men who desire early therapy or who have rapid PSA doubling times (< 10-12 months). Trials combining the early use of chemotherapy with hormone therapy are promising. Patients should be encouraged to enroll in clinical trials to help establish standards of care.