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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1997 Jul 15;38(5):941-7.

Rate of PSA rise predicts metastatic versus local recurrence after definitive radiotherapy.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.



A rising prostate specific antigen (PSA) following treatment for adenocarcinoma of the prostate indicates eventual clinical failure, but the rate of rise can be quite different from patient to patient, as can the pattern of clinical failure. We sought to determine whether the rate of PSA rise could differentiate future local versus metastatic failure.


Two thousand six hundred sixty-seven PSA values from 400 patients treated with radiotherapy for localized adenocarcinoma of the prostate were analyzed with respect to PSA patterns and clinical outcome. Patients had received no hormonal therapy or prostate surgery and had > 4 PSA values post-treatment. PSA rate of rise, determined by the slope of the natural log, was classified as gradual [< 0.69 log(ng/ml)/year, or doubling time (DT) > 1 year], moderate [0.69-1.4 log(ng/ml)/year, or DT 6 months-1 year], or rapid [> 1.4 log(ng/ml)/year, or DT < 6 months].


Sixty-one percent of patients had non-rising PSA following treatment; 25% of patients with rising PSA developed clinical failure, and 93% of patients with clinical failure had rising PSA. The rate of rise discerned different clinical failure patterns. Local failure occurred in 23% of patients with moderate rate of rise versus 7% with gradual rise (p = 0.0001). Metastatic disease developed in 46% of those with rapid rise versus 8% with moderate rise (p < 0.0001). By multivariate analysis, in addition to rate of rise, PSA nadir and rate of decline predicted local failure; those with post-treatment nadir of 1-4 ng/ml were five times more likely to experience local failure than nadir < 1 ng/ml (p = 0.0002). Rapid rate of rise was the most significant independent predictor of metastatic failure.


The rate of PSA rise following definitive radiotherapy can predict clinical failure patterns, with a rapidly rising PSA indicating metastatic recurrence and moderately rising PSA local recurrence. This information could potentially direct therapy; if the rise predicts metastatic failure hormonal therapy could be considered, while aggressive salvage therapy may benefit subclinical local recurrence identified by a moderate rate of PSA rise.

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