Julio M. Pow-Sang, M.D., chair of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Department of Genitourinary Oncology, and colleagues have published two prostate cancer articles in the September issue of JNCCN - The Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. The articles review and clarify recent updates made to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s (NCCN) guidelines for the screening and treatment of prostate cancer.
According to the NCCN, nearly 242,000 cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in 2012, accounting for 29 percent of new cancers among men. It is estimated that more than 28,000 men will die from the disease this year.
According to the journal, prostate cancer is “over diagnosed and over treated” and is subject to a controversy “fueled by large screening studies.” This month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the NCCN has offered support for active surveillance, a strategy by which men with low-risk tumors, often classified as clinically insignificant, are monitored over time.
“Depending on the disease characteristics and the patient’s life expectancy and personal preference, active surveillance may be a viable alternative to immediate and radical treatment,” Pow-Sang said. “For others with high-risk, localized tumors or locally advanced disease, there are recent treatment advances that should be considered.”
New agents and therapy combinations
According to the NCCN, external beam radiation and androgen deprivation therapy have been the traditional treatments for patients with high-risk tumors. However, the NCCN reports that brachytherapy, either permanent seed implant or temporary placement (high dose radiation), combined with external beam radiation and androgen deprivation therapy is increasingly being used for these patients.
The first article, Prostate Cancer, version 3.2012, noted that two new agents – abiraterone acetate and immunotherapy sipuleucel-T – are welcome therapeutic additions for patients with late-stage disease and poor prognosis.
Abiraterone acetate, which inhibits a key enzyme related to prostate cancer, can be given to patients after their chemotherapy. Studies have shown that it can also be used in chemotherapy-nai"ve patients.
The governmental advisory panel tasked with issuing cancer screening guidelines made a final recommendation on the most common form of prostate cancer screening, PSA tests.
The panel’s ruling: Not needed, regardless of age.
On Monday, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, or USPSTF, put forth this guideline on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests, which more than 20 million American men get each year. The formal recommendation follows draft guidance the task force issued in October 2011. These guidelines drive the screening decisions of doctors throughout the country.
The PSA blood test is the traditional way to detect evidence of prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer diagnosed in American men. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2012, almost 250,000 new cases and more than 28,000 prostate cancer-related deaths will occur.
The task force maintains that PSA tests do more harm than good. Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chairman of the task force, said the medical procedures arising from the tests could have serious downsides, including blood clots, heart attacks, strokes and possibly death. Other complications include impotence and urinary incontinence.
“Of 1,000 men who are screened, at most one man will avoid a prostate cancer death,” LeFevre said. “Two to three will have blood clot, heart attack, stroke or even death from treatment of the prostate cancer. One in 3,000 men screened will die of surgical complications from the treatment.”
By VERONICA SIKKA M.D., ABC News Medical Unit
May 21, 2012
Sipuleucel-T, a second line therapy, is a live cancer vaccine approved in 2010 for treating asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic patients with metastatic prostate cancer. The NCCN has recommended the new drug for use after chemotherapy failure or as treatment along with chemotherapy.
“The new NCCN guidelines highlight important updates to the management of prostate cancer,” concluded Pow-Sang and his co-authors. “These protocols are updated annually and more often when new, high-quality clinical data become available. The guidelines are based on evidence from clinical trials combined with expert consensus.”
Active surveillance and PSA density, percent free, and biopsy cores
In a second article, Enrollment Criteria Controversies for Active Surveillance and Triggers for Conversion to Treatment in Prostate Cancer, Pow-Sang and co-author David D. Buethe, M.D., a urologic oncology fellow at Moffitt, examine the controversy and criteria for implementing active surveillance for patients with asymptomatic prostate cancer and identify the triggers that would convert active surveillance patients to active treatment status.
The authors note that for those patients with prostate cancers at low-risk for progression, the active surveillance strategy was proposed a decade ago but is recently receiving more attention as a viable management option.
“However, critical uncertainties still surround active surveillance,” Pow-Sang said. “The criteria that qualify a patient as low or very low risk are not clear, nor is the definition of disease progression.”
In this article, Pow-Sang and Buethe reviewed recent literature regarding those uncertainties, examining criteria for assisting in selecting men for active surveillance, including PSA density, percent free versus percent total PSA, biopsy positive core results and “volume of involvement” data.
“A PSA density of greater than 0.08 ng/mL/g has been identified as a significant predictor of future disease progression in those with low-risk prostate cancer,” reported Pow-Sang. “However, some clinicians use a level of 0.15 ng/mL/g as a threshold.”
Percent-free PSA has been found to be a significant predictor of organ-confined disease, said Pow-Sang and Buethe, noting that some reports have shown a significant indirect correlation between percent-free PSA and prostate cancer volume; but as yet this parameter is “not widely accepted as a predictor of cancer extent.”