A comparative study of PCS and PAM50 prostate cancer classification schemes

Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2021 Sep;24(3):733-742. doi: 10.1038/s41391-021-00325-4. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


Background: Two prostate cancer (PC) classification methods based on transcriptome profiles, a de novo method referred to as the "Prostate Cancer Classification System" (PCS) and a variation of the established PAM50 breast cancer algorithm, were recently proposed. Both studies concluded that most human PC can be assigned to one of three tumor subtypes, two categorized as luminal and one as basal, suggesting the two methods reflect consistency in underlying biology. Despite the similarity, differences and commonalities between the two classification methods have not yet been reported.

Methods: Here, we describe a comparison of the PCS and PAM50 classification systems. PCS and PAM50 signatures consisting of 37 (PCS37) and 50 genes, respectively, were used to categorize 9,947 PC patients into PCS and PAM50 classes. Enrichment of hallmark gene sets and luminal and basal marker gene expression were assessed in the same datasets. Finally, survival analysis was performed to compare PCS and PAM50 subtypes in terms of clinical outcomes.

Results: PCS and PAM50 subtypes show clear differential expression of PCS37 and PAM50 genes. While only three genes are shared in common between the two systems, there is some consensus between three subtype pairs (PCS1 versus Luminal B, PCS2 versus Luminal A, and PCS3 versus Basal) with respect to gene expression, cellular processes, and clinical outcomes. PCS categories displayed better separation of cellular processes and luminal and basal marker gene expression compared to PAM50. Although both PCS1 and Luminal B tumors exhibited the worst clinical outcomes, outcomes between aggressive and less aggressive subtypes were better defined in the PCS system, based on larger hazard ratios observed.

Conclusion: The PCS and PAM50 classification systems are similar in terms of molecular profiles and clinical outcomes. However, the PCS system exhibits greater separation in multiple clinical outcomes and provides better separation of prostate luminal and basal characteristics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / classification*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Survival Rate
  • Transcriptome*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor