Objective: To clarify the significance of micrometastases in pelvic lymph nodes in patients treated by radical prostatectomy (RP) for prostate cancer after neoadjuvant hormonal therapy (NHT).
Patients and methods: The study included 52 patients with clinically localized prostate cancer who received NHT followed by RP. The expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) in 989 lymph nodes isolated from the 52 patients were assessed by a fully quantitative real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). We regarded specimens in which either PSA or PSMA mRNA were positive as showing the 'presence of micrometastasis'. Lymph node specimens were also stained immunohistochemically with an antibody against PSA.
Results: Pathological examinations detected tumour cells in 11 lymph nodes from four patients, and real-time RT-PCR further identified micrometastasis in 40 lymph nodes from 19 patients with no pathological evidence of nodal involvement. The presence of micrometastatic cancer cells was confirmed by immunohistochemical staining in 19 lymph nodes from 11 patients with pathologically negative nodes. The presence of micrometastases was significantly associated with other conventional prognostic variables, including the pretreatment serum PSA level, biopsy Gleason score and surgical margin status. The biochemical recurrence-free survival rate in patients with no micrometastasis was significantly higher than that in those with micrometastasis. Furthermore, multivariate analysis identified the presence of micrometastasis as an independent factor predicting biochemical recurrence.
Conclusions: Although residual foci of atrophic prostate cancer cells in resected lymph nodes after NHT can be difficult to diagnose by routine pathological examination, the present results show the usefulness of quantitative real-time RT-PCR targeting PSA and PSMA genes for detecting micrometastatic tumour foci in pelvic lymph nodes from patients with localized prostate cancer treated by NHT followed by RP. Furthermore, the present findings suggest that micrometastases in pelvic lymph nodes might be, at least partly, important in the development of biochemical recurrence in some patients undergoing RP after NHT.