Pattern of failure in prostate cancer previously treated with radical prostatectomy and post-operative radiotherapy: a secondary analysis of two prospective studies using novel molecular imaging techniques

Radiat Oncol. 2021 Feb 10;16(1):32. doi: 10.1186/s13014-020-01733-x.


Background: Prostate Membrane Specific Antigen (PSMA) positron emission tomography (PET) and multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) have shown high accuracy in identifying recurrent lesions after definitive treatment in prostate cancer (PCa). In this study, we aimed to outline patterns of failure in a group of post-prostatectomy patients who received adjuvant or salvage radiation therapy (PORT) and subsequently experienced biochemical recurrence, using 18F-PSMA PET/CT and mpMRI.

Methods: PCa patients with biochemical failure post-prostatectomy, and no evident site of recurrence on conventional imaging, were enrolled on two prospective trials of first and second generation 18F-PSMA PET agents (18F-DCFBC and 18F-DCFPyL) in combination with MRI between October 2014 and December 2018. The primary aim of our study is to characterize these lesions with respect to their location relative to previous PORT field and received dose.

Results: A total of 34 participants underwent 18F-PSMA PET imaging for biochemical recurrence after radical prostatectomy and PORT, with 32/34 found to have 18F-PSMA avid lesions. On 18F-PSMA, 17/32 patients (53.1%) had metastatic disease, 8/32 (25.0%) patients had locoregional recurrences, and 7/32 (21.9%) had local failure in the prostate fossa. On further exploration, we noted 6/7 (86%) of prostate fossa recurrences were in-field and were encompassed by 100% isodose lines, receiving 64.8-72 Gy. One patient had marginal failure encompassed by the 49 Gy isodose.

Conclusions: 18F-PSMA PET imaging demonstrates promise in identifying occult PCa recurrence after PORT. Although distant recurrence was the predominant pattern of failure, in-field recurrence was noted in approximately 1/5th of patients. This should be considered in tailoring radiotherapy practice after prostatectomy. Trial registration , NCT02190279 and NCT03181867. Registered July 12, 2014, and June 8 2017, .

Keywords: Biochemical recurrence; F-18; PET/CT; Prostate cancer; Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA); Prostatectomy; Radiation therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antigens, Surface / metabolism
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / therapy
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatectomy / adverse effects*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Failure


  • Antigens, Surface
  • FOLH1 protein, human
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II

Associated data