An Updated Systematic Review on Focal Therapy in Localized Prostate Cancer: What Has Changed over the Past 5 Years?

Eur Urol. 2022 Jan;81(1):5-33. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2021.08.005. Epub 2021 Sep 4.


Context: Focal therapy is a promising, minimally invasive strategy to selectively treat localized prostate cancer. A previous systematic review indicated that there is growing evidence for favorable functional outcomes, but that oncological effectiveness was yet to be defined.

Objective: To assess the effectiveness of focal therapy in patients with localized prostate cancer in terms of functional and oncological outcomes.

Evidence acquisition: PubMed, Embase, and The Cochrane Library were searched for studies between October 2015 and December 31, 2020. In addition, the research stages were acquired according to the Idea, Development, Exploration, Assessment, Long-term study (IDEAL) recommendations. Ongoing studies were identified through clinical trial registries.

Evidence synthesis: Seventy-two studies were identified exploring eight different sources of energy to deliver focal therapy in 5827 patients. Twenty-seven studies reported on high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), nine studies on irreversible electroporation, 11 on cryoablation, eight on focal laser ablation and focal brachytherapy, seven on photodynamic therapy (PDT), two on radiofrequency ablation, and one on prostatic artery embolization. The majority of studies were prospective development stage 2a studies (n = 357). PDT and HIFU, both in stage 3, showed promising results. Overall, HIFU studies reported a median of 95% pad-free patients and a median of 85% patients with no clinically significant cancer (CSC) in the treated area. For PDT, no changes in continence were reported and a median of 90% of patients were without CSC. Both treatments were well tolerated.

Conclusions: Over the past 5 yr, focal therapy has been studied for eight different energy sources, mostly in single-arm stage 2 studies. Although a first randomized controlled trial in focal therapy has been performed, more high-quality evaluations are needed, preferably via multicenter randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up and predefined assessment of oncological and functional outcomes and health-related quality-of-life measures.

Patient summary: Focal treatment (FT) of prostate cancer has potential, considering that it has less impact on continence and potency than radical treatment. Our systematic review indicates that despite the method being studied extensively over the past half decade, the majority of studies remain in an early research stage. The techniques high-intensity focused ultrasound and photodynamic therapy have shown most progression toward advanced research stages and show favorable results. However, more high-quality evidence is required before FT can become available as a standard treatment.

Keywords: Focal therapy; IDEAL; Prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Embolization, Therapeutic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostate / surgery
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia* / therapy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome