Characterising the castration-resistant prostate cancer population: a systematic review

Int J Clin Pract. 2011 Nov;65(11):1180-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2011.02799.x.


Background: Castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) is an advanced form of prostate cancer associated with poor survival rates. However, characterisation of the disease epidemiology is hampered by use of varying terminology, definition and disease management. The aim of this review was to conduct a systematic review to provide greater clarity on the sum of the available epidemiologic evidence and to guide future research into the disease prevalence, progression, characteristics and outcome.

Methods: Systematic searches of PubMed and Embase were performed in March 2010 to identify relevant observational studies relating to the epidemiology, progression and outcomes of CRPC. Further studies were identified for inclusion in our review through manual searches of the authors' bibliographical databases and the reference lists of the included articles.

Results: We identified 12 articles (10 full papers and 2 abstracts) reporting studies that included a total of 71,179 patients observed for up to 12 years for evaluation in our review. Five studies looked at the prevalence of CRPC in patients with prostate cancer. Together, the data indicate that 10-20% of prostate cancer patients develop CRPC within approximately 5 years of follow-up. Two studies reported the prevalence of bone metastases present at diagnosis of CRPC. Together, ≥ 84% were shown to have metastases at diagnosis. Of those patients with no metastases present at diagnosis of CRPC, 33% could expect to develop them within 2 years. The median survival of patients with CRPC was reported in five studies, with values varying from 9 to 30 months. A pooled, sample-weighted survival estimate calculated from the survival data included in this review is 14 months. Very few studies that met our inclusion criteria evaluated treatment patterns in CRPC. One study reported that only 37% of patients with CRPC received chemotherapy, with the remainder receiving only steroids and supportive care. The most common palliative therapies administered to patients with skeletal symptoms were radiotherapy, radionuclide therapy, bisphosphonates and opioids.

Conclusions: This review highlights the poor prognosis of patients with CRPC, and demonstrates a survival of 9-13 months in those patients with metastatic CRPC. Furthermore, progression to CRPC is associated with deterioration in quality of life, and few therapeutic options are currently available to patients with CRPC. However, epidemiologic study of these patients is hampered by differing terminology, definitions and treatment paradigms. Our review highlights the need for further well-designed, epidemiological studies of CRPC, using standardised definitions and methods.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Aged
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Neoplasms / mortality
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orchiectomy / mortality*
  • Prognosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Survival Analysis


  • Androgen Antagonists