Clinical significance and treatment of biochemical recurrence after definitive therapy for localized prostate cancer

Surg Oncol. 2009 Sep;18(3):268-74. doi: 10.1016/j.suronc.2009.02.004. Epub 2009 Apr 25.


Purpose: Radical prostatectomy and external beam radiation therapy are the established and definitive interventions for clinically localized prostate cancer. These treatment modalities are yet subject to failure observed first by biochemical recurrence, defined by increases in the serum PSA level. We investigated the significance of biochemical recurrence after definitive therapy and the available salvage therapy options for cancer recurrence.

Methods: A literature search was performed in PubMed, and applicable studies addressing biochemical recurrence and salvage options after radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation therapy were reviewed.

Results: After radical prostatectomy, a detectable serum PSA level indicates biochemical recurrence. Whether to administer salvage therapy locally or systemically depends largely on prognostic factors including PSA doubling time, Gleason's score, pathologic stage, and the time interval between radical prostatectomy and biochemical recurrence. Early initiation of salvage therapy has been shown to significantly impact on cancer outcomes. After external beam radiation therapy, no single PSA level can define biochemical recurrence. Instead, it has been defined by increases in the PSA level above the nadir. Following radiation therapy, PSA doubling time and Gleason score play important roles in determining the need for local versus systemic salvage therapy.

Conclusions: After the diagnosis of biochemical recurrence, it is critical to perform a timely clinical assessment using the prognostic factors mentioned above. Prompt initiation of salvage therapy may prevent subsequent clinical progression and prostate cancer-specific mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*