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Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 1998 Jun;1(4):197-203.

Prospective evaluation of percent free-PSA and complexed-PSA for early detection of prostate cancer.

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Department of Urology, The Brady Urological Institute, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland.



Retrospective studies investigating the use of percent free-PSA for early detection of prostate cancer were limited for various reasons: by their use of long-term stored sera, poor mix of non-cancer to cancer cases and the use of only men with PSA values between 4.0 and 10.0 ng/mL. This prospective study investigates the clinical utility of percent free-PSA and complexed-PSA for early detection of prostate cancer in 219 consecutive men presenting for prostate biopsy.


Of 246 consecutive men who underwent ultrasound guided sextant biopsy of the prostate for PSA elevation and/or suspicious digital rectal exam, 219 men had serum total PSA levels between 2.0 and 20.0 ng/mL and were included in this study. Serum total, free and complexed (PSA-ACT) were measured (Hybritech Inc.).


Pathologic examinations demonstrated that 72% and 28% of the biopsies were non-cancer and cancer respectively. The mean percent free-PSA was statistically different between the groups (cancer 14%+/-6.4 and non-cancer 18+/-9%, P<0.001) and improved cancer detection. PSA-ACT provided only modest improvement in cancer detection over that of total PSA. Among this cohort of men, the optimal total PSA reflex range for percent free-PSA was 3.0-7.0 ng/mL (38% specificity) with a percent free-PSA cut-off of 20% (95% sensitivity) yet only affected 56% of the cases.


PSA-ACT added very little additional value to the clinical utility of total PSA for early detection. Percent free-PSA performed well for all reflex ranges. A sensitivity and specificity of 95% and 20% respectively were obtained using a single cut-off of 25% for percent free-PSA for the group of men with total PSA values between 4.0 and 10.0 and correlated well with recently reported prospective analyses.

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