Prostate specific antigen recurrence after definitive therapy

J Urol. 2007 Jun;177(6):1985-91. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2007.01.137.


Purpose: We estimate that approximately 70,000 men yearly have prostate specific antigen-only recurrence after failed definitive therapy. The ideal salvage therapy for these men is not clear. Treatment must be individualized based on the patient risk of progression, the likelihood of success and the risks involved with the therapy. However, to do so the risks and benefits of the various options must be known. Therefore, we provide a comprehensive overview of the natural history and treatment options for men with prostate specific antigen-only recurrence.

Materials and methods: A literature review and overview of prostate specific antigen-only recurrence after failed definitive therapy was done.

Results: The natural history after prostate specific antigen-only recurrence is long but variable. Median time from prostate specific antigen-only recurrence after radical prostatectomy to prostate cancer death exceeds 16 years, although some men die within 1 year after PSA recurrence. Rapid prostate specific antigen doubling time is the best prognostic factor for poor outcome. Salvage radiation therapy after radical prostatectomy results in a 45% 4-year prostate specific antigen response rate, although long-term outcomes appear poor. To our knowledge the effect on survival is not known. Salvage radical prostatectomy is rarely performed but in the highly selected patient it may provide some benefit. There are no randomized studies of early vs late hormonal therapy for men with prostate specific antigen-only recurrence. A retrospective study suggested delayed metastasis when therapy was begun early but only in men at high risk. This mirrors other data suggesting that men at high risk may derive significant benefits from early hormonal therapy, whereas men at low risk are unlikely to benefit and may be harmed by hormonal therapy.

Conclusions: Prostate specific antigen-only recurrence is the most common form of advanced prostate cancer. Optimal salvage treatments and timing of these treatments remain controversial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood*
  • Prostatectomy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Recurrence
  • Salvage Therapy


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen