Variation in the definition of biochemical recurrence in patients treated for localized prostate cancer: the American Urological Association Prostate Guidelines for Localized Prostate Cancer Update Panel report and recommendations for a standard in the reporting of surgical outcomes

J Urol. 2007 Feb;177(2):540-5. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2006.10.097.


Purpose: The American Urological Association Prostate Guideline Update Panel was charged with updating the Guidelines for Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer. In assessing outcomes with treatment, it became apparent that a highly variable number of definitions exist with respect to biochemical recurrence. Herein, we review the variability in published definitions of biochemical recurrence and make recommendations directed toward improving this terminology by recommending a standard definition in patients treated with radical prostatectomy.

Materials and methods: Four PubMed literature searches were performed between May 2001 and April, 2004 and covered articles published from 1991 through early 2004. The search terms included the MeSH major headings of prostate cancer and prostatic neoplasm. All potentially relevant articles were retrieved and a more detailed screen for relevance was performed. An article was considered relevant if it reported treatment outcomes of patients with clinical T1 or T2N0M0 prostate cancer. Data extractors recorded the definition of biochemical recurrence and definitions were then collapsed into categories representing the same criteria. The results of biochemical failure were subcategorized by initial treatment.

Results: Of 13,800 citations, a total of 436 articles were selected. Among these, a total of 145 articles contained 53 different definitions of biochemical recurrence for those treated with radical prostatectomy. Of these, the most common definition (35) was a prostate specific antigen of >0.2 ng/mL or a slight variation thereof. In addition, a total of 208 articles reported 99 different definitions of biochemical failure among those treated with radiation therapy. Of these, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology definition (70) and/or a variation thereof was the most commonly reported. In total, 166 different definitions of biochemical failure were identified. Following radical prostatectomy, the Panel recommends defining biochemical recurrence as an initial serum prostate specific antigen of > or =0.2 ng/mL, with a second confirmatory level of prostate specific antigen of >0.2 ng/mL. The Panel recommends the use of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology criteria for patients treated with radiation therapy and acknowledges that these criteria will soon be updated although not yet published.

Conclusions: A high degree of variability in the definition of biochemical recurrence exists following treatment for localized prostate cancer. Strict definitions for biochemical recurrence are necessary to identify men at risk for disease progression and to allow meaningful comparisons among patients treated similarly. The Panel acknowledges the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology criteria and future modifications thereof for those receiving radiation therapy and recommends the newly developed American Urological Association criteria for those treated with radical prostatectomy. The purpose for the establishment of this standard is for data reporting purposes and for comparison of similarly treated patients. It is not intended to represent a threshold value for which to initiate treatment. The Panel acknowledges that the clinical decision to initiate treatment will be dependent on multiple factors including patient and physician interaction rather than a specific prostate specific antigen threshold value.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / blood*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / epidemiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Treatment Failure


  • Prostate-Specific Antigen