Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) improves the health of British Columbians by seeking province-wide solutions to specialized health care needs in collaboration with BC health authorities and other partners.
Although prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in B.C. (with the exception of non-melanocytic skin cancer), relatively little is known concerning its etiology.
Ethnic origin appears to be important, with North American blacks having very high rates, whites intermediate rates and North American Asian men, low rates (Gallagher & Fleshner 1998). Family history is also important in prostate cancer. Men with a single first degree relative with the disease have a 2-fold risk of developing it themselves. Men with 2 or more first degree relatives involved, have a 4-5-fold risk. Fortunately only about 1% of men in Canada have such a history.
Consumption of a diet rich in red meat and saturated fat appears to increase risk, particularly of aggressive disease. At present compelling evidence for a protective effect of vitamin A, Beta-carotene, or soy products is lacking for prostate cancer, although results from ongoing or planned studies may alter this assessment in the next 2-3 years. A study conducted in Finland showed a substantial protective effect from vitamin E supplementation, but confirmation of these results is necessary.
Primary prevention manoeuvres involving diet modification may eventually prove useful. Clinical trials are required in order to demonstrate benefit, however, before these can be recommended to men with any confidence.
Revised 29 November 2010
The standard method of early detection for prostate cancer is the digital rectal examination (DRE) which should be done annually in fit men 50-70 years or if obstructive or other urinary tract symptoms are present.
Serum prostate specific antigen test (PSA) is recommended as a diagnostic adjunct in men with lower urinary tract symptoms or suspicious DRE findings.
Serum PSA is of unknown value however as a population screening test. Although there is good evidence that it increases the detection rate of early stage clinically significant prostate cancers, there is little evidence to date that such early detection leads to reduced mortality; the "gold standard" for evaluating screening tests.
Fit men age 50-70 (men with at least 10 years life expectancy) should be made aware of the availability of PSA as a detection test for prostate cancer. They should be aware of the potential benefits and risks of early detection so they can make an informed decision as to whether to have the test performed.
The BC Cancer Agency statement concerning screening with PSA.
revised Mar. 2001
3.1 Clinico-pathologic Considerations
The most common histology is adenocarcinoma (acinar) and is dealt with in this guideline. The large duct (previously referred to as endometrioid) variant of prostate carcinoma is generally treated like the more common acinar type of prostatic adenocarcinoma, but as it may behave more aggressively and can be confused pathologically with transitional carcinoma, its presence should be specifically mentioned. Transitional cell carcinoma may be primary or secondary from the bladder and should be treated according to the bladder carcinoma recommendations. Pathologists need to delineate whether the transitional carcinoma invades prostate stroma, merely shows pagetoid extension into prostate ducts or involves tissue in prostate sample that may only represent bladder neck.
Other rare cancers include small cell carcinoma, which requires referral for combined modality therapy. Sarcomas are rare, occurring in younger patients and are dealt with by the Sarcoma Group.
3.2 Classification Criteria
Abnormal DRE and/or elevated PSA are not diagnostic of prostate cancer but place patients into a higher risk group for having cancer, who require further investigation. Diagnosis is confirmed by needle biopsy, most accurately using transrectal ultrasound guided sextant biopsies. Indications for biopsy include:
3.3 Diagnostic Pathology
Revised March 2009
4.1 Classification Criteria
Link to the current TNM system 2010 (UICC 1997)
T - Primary Tumour
T2 & T3 apply only to adenocarcinomas. Transitional cell carcinoma of the prostate is classified as a urethral tumour (220.127.116.11).
* tumour found in one or both lobes by needle biopsy, but not palpable or visible by imaging is classified as T1c ** invasion into the prostatic apex or into (but not beyond) the prostatic capsule is not classified as T3, but as T2.
N - Regional Lymph Nodes
The regional lymph nodes are the nodes of the true pelvis which essentially are the pelvic nodes below the bifurcation of the common iliac arteries. Laterality does not affect the N classification.
M - Distant Metastasis
4.2 Staging Diagram
4.3 Investigations for Staging
Assessment for patients who are being considered for curative (radical) surgery or radiation should consist of:
Chest x-ray Other investigations:
Updated 24 June 2009
Prostate cancer exhibits a wide range of biologic behaviour in a heterogeneous patient population. In elderly patients with life expectancies less than ten years, small volume or microscopic cancers, low grade and low PSA, no treatment is necessary. However, it is important to diagnose cancers in men with longer life expectancies who have more aggressive disease and in whom radical therapy offers a curative potential. Such prognostic factors have been grouped according to a Canadian GU Radiation Oncology Consensus, published in Canadian Journal of Urology 2001, as follows:
A discussion about treatment decision-making may be found at the
Canadian Family Physician web site.
Updated 29 July 2009
Low Risk (all of the following):
Patients with low risk cancer have 10-year prostate cancer survival rates in excess of 99% [1, 2], and it is uncertain if intervention improves longer term survival. For this reason the option of active surveillance should always be considered (see below) as a means of avoiding over-treatment which may otherwise occur in over 50% of men with PSA screen-detected cancer  . However, as a substantial number of men who are thought to have low risk cancer on sextant biopsy will be found to have more significant cancer if they undertake prostatectomy, it is essential to carefully consider all available diagnostic and clinical information before embarking on a surveillance strategy. For these reasons a protocol for Active Surveillance has been developed to permit the careful management of men with low and minimal risk prostate cancer.
Active Surveillance Protocol for the Management of Patients with Low Risk Prostate Cancer:
Patients with low risk prostate cancer (PSA<=10, T stage <=2, Gleason score <=3+3=6/10) are eligible. Additionally, men with low risk cancers whose PSA is up to 15 will also be considered, as long as the PSA density is <0.2 ng/ml/cc. Patients will be counselled as to the option of Active Surveillance, as well as immediate intervention.
Active Surveillance Protocol Schedule
Re-biopsy upon entry (within 3 months) 8-12 biopsy cores, the greater number being in those with larger prostate glands, unless the initial biopsy was considered adequate. The specimen will be reviewed by a reference pathologist. The specimen will be centrally stored for possible future analysis.
Indications to exit the program and consider intervention
Pickles, T. and Prostate Cohort Outcomes Initiative. Low risk prostate cancer carries a minimal risk of prostate mortality and intensification of treatment should be questioned. ASCO-ASTRO Prostate Symposium. 2006.
Murthy, V., et al., Recovery of serum testosterone after neoadjuvant androgen deprivation therapy and radical radiotherapy in localized prostate cancer. BJU Int, 2006. 97(3): p. 476-9.
Draisma, G., et al., Lead times and overdetection due to prostate-specific antigen screening: estimates from the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst, 2003. 95(12): p. 868-78.
Klotz, L., Active surveillance with selective delayed intervention for favorable risk prostate cancer. Urol Oncol, 2006. 24(1): p. 46-50.
Vashi, A.R., et al., A model for the number of cores per prostate biopsy based on patient age and prostate gland volume. J Urol, 1998. 159(3): p. 920-4.
Updated 30 June 2009
Intermediate Risk (neither low nor high risk, and therefore have any of the following):
In the physically fit individual with life expectancies longer than ten years, radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy should be considered. In general, radical surgery is reserved for patients less than 72 years of age who are otherwise in excellent health.
a) Radical Surgery
Radical surgery is indicated in selected patients with tumours clinically confined to the prostate and life expectancies longer than 10 years. A nerve sparing procedure should be avoided on the side of the lesion or with significant apical disease. Neoadjuvant androgen withdrawal therapy reduces the risk of positive margins by 50%, but since the effects on recurrence rates are not yet known, it should not be routinely employed off study.
b) Radical Radiotherapy
Patients with high-intermediate risk disease (those with PSA >=15, or Gleason >=7 scores or with a bulky primary tumour) are considered for neoadjuvant-adjuvant androgen ablation as described in the section for high risk disease.
Updated 18 August 2009
High Risk (must have any of the following):
Depending on the patient's age, general health, and disease-related parameters, a variety of therapeutic approaches may warrant consideration including combined radiation and androgen deprivation therapy, radical prostatectomy, radiotherapy alone, or androgen deprivation therapy alone.
Comparison of surgery and radiotherapy is hampered by a lack of randomised head-to-head trials, different definitions of high risk disease and biochemical recurrence, as well as variable addition of androgen deprivation therapy in reported series. Both are considered potential curative treatment options for appropriate cases in a multimodal therapeutic strategy to optimize outcomes in patients with high risk localized disease.
The combination of radiotherapy and androgen deprivation therapy contribute to incremental improvements in disease free and overall survival compared to either alone.
Multi-centre randomized trials have demonstrated improved overall survival, disease free survival, and local tumour control following external beam radiation therapy combined with concurrent and adjuvant androgen suppression of up to three years duration when compared with radiation therapy alone in men with high risk prostate cancer.
Neoadjuvant therapy has also shown benefit when given for several months prior to radiation. [Bolla et al: NEJM 1997:337/5;p295; Pilepich et al: J. Clin. Oncol.1997;15/3;p1013; Pilepich et al Urology, 1995,45:616-63; RTOG 92-02 ASCO 2000].
Three years of androgen deprivation therapy has been shown to be more effective than six months of androgen deprivation therapy with respect to biochemical and a modest improvement in overall survival (Bolla et al, NEJM 2009:360; p2516); however, the optimal duration of androgen ablation continues to be defined. The use and duration of use of androgen ablation prior to the start of radiotherapy (ie neoadjuvant component) is also evolving, but prospective trials suggest that up to eight months of neoadjuvant androgen ablation is an option (Crook et al. Int J Rad Onc Biol Phys: 73(2); 327-333. Denham et al. Lancet Oncology:2005; 6(11);841-850.)
The optimum duration of adjuvant androgen deprivation therapy and the trade-off between toxicity and potential benefit depends on disease and patient factors and will be individualized in consultation with the oncologist. The combination of radiotherapy with non-steroidal anti-androgen based mono-hormonal therapy compared to non-steroidal anti-androgen therapy alone, improved the ten year overall survival by 10% in one large study (Widemark et al: Lancet 2009: 373;301-308).
Patients who are candidates for curative radiation treatment for localized prostate cancer, but who have "high-intermediate" or high-risk criteria may also be offered neoadjuvant androgen deprivation therapy for up to eight months duration, to be followed by concurrent/adjuvant therapy (giving a total duration of up to three years), in addition to their definitive radiotherapy. In addition, selected patients with bulky benign prostate glands containing low-risk tumours may require neoadjuvant therapy to reduce the volume of tissue irradiated and so reduce toxicity.
The use of neoadjuvant androgen deprivation therapy in the 'low-risk' patient should be avoided because the patient will be exposed to toxicity of androgen deprivation treatment with evidence of increased morbidity and mortality from androgen deprivation therapy in some studies. Generally, the survival benefit seen in randomized trials has been limited to those with high risk cancer, and benefits with intermediate risk patients are limited to biochemical control advantages.
Several randomized trials have demonstrated a disease free survival benefit to dose escalation to doses 74 Gy compared to lower doses (Int J Rad Onc Biol Phys 72(4): pg 980, Dearnaley, Lancet Oncology 2007, Kuban, Int J Rad Onc Biol Phys 2007). Selected patients may also be offered total androgen blockade in the neoadjuvant period. The use of image guided and or intensity modulated radiotherapy may improve outcomes with radiotherapy in terms of toxicity or disease control. The role of brachytherapy as a component of dose escalation for high risk prostate cancer patients is evolving. High risk prostate cancer patients may be eligible for clinical trials investigating the role of radiation dose escalation (eg ASCEND RT), or the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy prior to radiotherapy (eg DART), or prior to surgery (eg NCIC PRC.3/CALGB 90203).
Referring doctors are asked not to institute androgen suppression therapy prior to consultation with a radiation oncologist or the treating urologist because:
The role of radical prostatectomy in the context of potential multimodal therapy for high risk clinically localized prostate cancer is supported by accumulating evidence.
In a series of 240 patients with high risk localized prostate cancer who underwent radical prostatectomy (with androgen deprivation therapy in 71%) at Vancouver General Hospital, PSA recurrence (defined as >0.4 µg/L) was 31%. Those patients with only one adverse factor had good PSA control of ~60% at five years, whereas those with multiple adverse factors had a brief time to relapse of only ~ two years.
A series of 842 patients from the Mayo Clinic with clinical T3 disease and a median follow-up of > ten years after prostatectomy reported biochemical progression-free survival 43% at ten years; 78% received ADT and 41% radiotherapy at some point after their surgery (Ward BJU 2005).
Similar results are reported from a Belgian surgical series of 235 clinical T3a CAP patients, reported biochemical PFS of 51.5% at ten years (Hsu Eur Urol 2007), although 56% of these patients had either adjuvant or salvage RT and/or ADT.
Post Radical Prostatectomy Adjuvant Radiotherapy
Post-radical prostatectomy radiotherapy is recommended for patients with pathologic T3 (ie extracapsular extension or seminal vesicle invasion) or margin positive disease who are considered at high risk of local recurrence.
Three randomized trials have demonstrated a reduction of the risk of recurrence after early adjuvant radiotherapy for men with pT3 cancer or positive margins after a radical prostatectomy, compared to no early adjuvant radiotherapy (Wigel et al, JCO 2009: 27(8); pg2924. Thompson et al, J Urol. 2009: 181: pg956. Van Der Kwast, JCO 2007: 25(27): pg4178), and one study has showed a 10% increase in ten year overall survival.
As a result, early adjuvant radiotherapy is considered the standard of care for patients with these risk factors. Subgroup analysis from some of the studies have suggested the benefit is restricted to those patients with positive margins (Van Der Kwast, JCO 2007: 25(27): pg 4178.), and the three randomized trials predate the use of routine PSA testing in follow-up, therefore ongoing randomized trials are testing the hypothesis that salvage RT at time of first PSA relapse will provide a similar outcome to adjuvant RT.
We recommend referral to the BC Cancer Agency for consultation with a radiation oncologist for patients with pT3 disease or positive margins, prior to any adjuvant hormonal treatment and early (within three months of surgery) in the postoperative period. Observation alone may be appropriate in some candidates. Patients may be offered enrolment in the RADICALS trial, which is an international phase III study testing whether early adjuvant radiotherapy is more effective than radiotherapy delayed until PSA is rising. This study also randomizes patients to the addition of androgen deprivation therapy for various durations for patients considered to need radiotherapy.
Other clinical trials may be available at the time of PSA relapse after prostatectomy (eg Tax 3503, which is examining the role of Taxotere in addition to salvage androgen ablation). There is a list of Open Clinical Trials on the Genitourinary page.
Treatment needs to be individualized and may involve radical or palliative radiotherapy and/or early or delayed androgen deprivation therapy. Radiotherapy in addition to androgen deprivation therapy is likely to improve local control and may confer additional metastasis free and overall survival benefit for some patients (Widemark et al: Lancet 2009: 373;301-308).
Stage Any T, N1-3
The general trend is towards immediate androgen withdrawal therapy at the time of diagnosis of metastatic disease rather than waiting for symptomatic progression.
Increasing and evolving evidence suggests that treatment should commence at the time of diagnosis of locally advanced or metastatic disease. However, some delay of treatment in sexually active, asymptomatic men is a reasonable alternative, and the potentially adverse effect on quality of life should be taken into account (JCO 2006: 24(18S);4513, JCO 2007: 25(18S); 5015).
The use of intermittent androgen ablation has been examined in several randomized trials and initial results suggest that survival rates are not compromised with intermittent androgen ablation.
Reviewed July 2005
Updated: 9 November 2004
Because of the difficulty of treating many patients in this population and also evaluating the response, cytotoxic chemotherapy is only recommended in suitable selected patients with active drugs with low subjective toxicity. The combination of Mitoxantrone and Prednisone (GUPMX) has demonstrated clinical palliative benefit in patients with painful bone metastases without improvement in overall survival. More recently, in randomized studies, Docetaxel given every three weeks in conjunction with prednisone (GUPDOC) has been shown to improve overall survival and provide superior pain relief and improvement in quality of life parameters, as compared to mitoxantrone. Palliative benefit is most likely to accrue to patients where general condition and marrow function is adequately preserved.
Refer suitable patients early to the medical oncology service for consideration of chemotherapy, after recognition of development of hormone resistant disease. Chemotherapy may be delayed in asymptomatic patients without visceral disease. Patients in severe and/or uncontrolled pain should be first managed with radiotherapy and analgesics as appropriate.
Details of current protocols are available on request.
Tannock IF. de Wit R. Berry WR. Horti J. Pluzanska A. Chi KN. Oudard S. Theodore C. James ND. Turesson I. Rosenthal MA. Eisenberger MA. TAX 327 Investigators. Docetaxel plus prednisone or mitoxantrone plus prednisone for advanced prostate cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. 351(15):1502-12, 2004 Oct 7.
Tannock IF. Osoba D. Stockler MR. Ernst DS. Neville AJ. Moore MJ. Armitage GR. Wilson JJ. Venner PM. Coppin CM. Murphy KC. Chemotherapy with mitoxantrone plus prednisone or prednisone alone for symptomatic hormone-resistant prostate cancer: a Canadian randomized trial with palliative end points. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 14(6):1756-64, 1996 Jun.
Updated January 23, 2014
Effective immediately bicalutamide 50 mg daily will replace flutamide 250 mg tid as the preferred antiandrogen for prostate cancer. Apart from more convenient once-daily administration it is also better tolerated, and is now available. Patients currently on flutamide may switch to bicalutamide at the physician's discretion.
Monotherapy with bicalutamide 150 mg/day is not approved. The drug does not have a license for this use in Canada as a result of efficacy and safety concerns. All three antiandrogens (bicalutamide, flutamide, and nilutamide) are equally efficacious. Side effects of bicalutamide include diarrhea, nipple tenderness and gynecomastia. Side effects of flutamide include diarrhea, abnormalities in liver function enzymes, and occasional jaundice. Liver function tests should be monitored periodically if used continuously for long (over 3 months) periods of time. Side effects of nilutamide include night blindness, alcohol intolerance and rarely, interstitial pneumonitis.
Updated 12 April 2007
Reviewed July 2005
Reviewed July 2005
First-line treatment of metastatic prostate cancer is orchidectomy. This can be done under local or regional anesthesia and remains the standard, as it is permanent and cost-effective. Surgical complications are minimal. In the short term, there are minimal side-effects (loss of libido, impotence, and hot flushes). Long term androgen deprivation may result in anemia, osteoporosis, lipid profile changes and loss of muscle mass. There is no role for routine addition of steroidal or nonsteroidal antiandrogens following orchidectomy. Indications for the use of antiandrogens following orchidectomy are outlined in the Indications for Antiandrogen Use section of this page.
Published: 27 June 2005
There is level 1 evidence that Zoledronate at 4 mg IV administered every 3 weeks for 12-24 months reduces skeletal related events (SREs) in men with hormone resistant prostate cancer and bone metastases. SREs were defined as a pathological fracture, radiation therapy to bone, surgery to bone, or a change in chemotherapy to treat bone pain. Zoledronate produces an 8% absolute reduction (from 44-36%) in SREs at 15 months. The annual incidence of SREs was 0.77 for the 4-mg zoledronic acid group versus 1.47 for the placebo group. This translates into a number need to treat of 12 patients to prevent 1 skeletal related event. This is not associated with any definitive demonstration of survival benefit, pain or quality of life improvement. Repeated intravenous administrations of Zoledronate can have adverse effects and its use must be balanced by the benefit. A request for BCCA funding for Zoledronic Acid was not successful, however, Zoledronate is available for use under the palliative drug benefit program, which is designed to provide support within the last 6 months of life.
Background information on bisphosphonates in prostate cancer
In the context of androgen deprivation therapy osteoporosis may be found or develop. Bisphosphonates have a significant role to play in the treatment of established osteoporosis. Although bisphosphonates (and other products) will benefit bone density in patients without osteoporosis, it is not clear that there will be any reduction in fractures - the key endpoint in prevention. Medical interventions, on the other hand, may have complications and costs. For more detail please see Osteoporosis Screening Guidelines.
In view of practice trends and requests, the BC Cancer Agency (BCCA) Genitourinary (GU) Tumour Group has reviewed the evidence of the role of bisphosphonates in hormone refractory prostate cancer. We agree with the Ontario guidelines (Berry et al) in regards to the cited references and most of their conclusions. The BCCA GU Tumour Group does not agree with the conclusions of Berry et al on the use of clodronate for metastatic bone pain in prostate cancer patients.
Although evidence supports the use of bisphosphonates in pain relief (9000 patients from 51 randomized trials), the effect is small (about 0.5 in a 10 point pain scale) and delayed by about 12 weeks (Wong 2004). At present there is insufficient evidence to support their first line use for bone pain. When analysis is focused on evidence in the context of metastatic prostate cancer the effects are minimal and only a trend on subset analysis of a clodronate trial. In view of the benefits from analgesics, co-analgesics, radiotherapy (including strontium), chemotherapy and on occasion surgical intervention, the role of bisphosphonates for pain relief should be considered as an adjunct to these approaches where pain control proves difficult.
Genitourinary Cancer Disease Site Group. Berry S, Waldron T, Winquist E, Lukka H. The use of bisphosphonates in men with hormone-refractory prostate cancer [full report]. Toronto (ON): Cancer Care Ontario (CCO); 2005 Jan 10. 34 p. (Practice guideline report; no. 3-14). [43 references]
Wong R, Shukla VK, Mensinkai S, Wiffen P. An assessment of bisphosphonate drugs to manage pain secondary to bone metastases [Technology overview no 14]. Ottawa: Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment; 2004.
Saad F, Gleason DM, Murray R, Tchekmedyian S, Venner P, Lacombe L, et al. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of zoledronic acid in patients with hormone-refractory metastatic prostate carcinoma.[comment]. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002;94(19):1458-68.
Saad F, Gleason DM, Murray R, Tchekmedyian S, Venner P, Lacombe L, et al. Long-Term Efficacy of Zoledronic Acid for the Prevention of Skeletal Complications in Patients With Metastatic Hormone-Refractory Prostate Cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 2004;96(11):879-882.
The main goal of follow-up is the early detection of recurrence in those situations where the early institution of salvage therapy can cure or prolong life. Local recurrence after radical prostatectomy may be an example. In contrast, most patients who have received primary radical radiation therapy may only be managed palliatively in the event of recurrence, and the value of routine follow-up is questionable.
A rising PSA profile is indicative of recurrent disease but does not distinguish local from metastatic relapse.
Definition of a PSA recurrence:
The ASTRO definition of PSA relapse is three consecutive rises from the nadir, with a minimum value of 0.5ng/ml. This definition, although widely accepted, has been criticized and the Vancouver definition is currently preferred. The Vancouver definition is at least two successive rises to a level of at least 1.5ng/ml.
Patients treated with brachytherapy may experience a ‘bounce’ in the PSA level, typically occurring 1-3 years post-therapy, where PSA levels may rise temporarily to 4 ng/ml or greater. This is thought to be due to a non-infective prostatitis or necrosis. In these patients advice from a radiation oncologist should be sought. Prostate biopsy should not be performed as interpretation is difficult and may be misleading due to continuing tumour cell death ( i.e. most "indeterminate" biopsies performed 2-3 years after prostate brachytherapy are false positives and will revert to negative with longer follow-up). Biopsy results post prostate brachytherapy should thus not be used to guide treatment decisions.
In full detail the ‘Vancouver Rules for PSA relapse following radiation’ are as follows:
revised 26 March 2001
Digital rectal examination and tumour marker measurement in the form of PSA are recommended at regularly scheduled intervals (e.g. three-monthly in the first year, increasing to six-monthly). Elevation of PSA (see definitions below), or a palpable nodule (biopsy confirmed) suggests disease recurrence and that local radiotherapy or hormonal therapy may be considered. Patients with positive margins or capsular penetration may benefit from adjuvant therapy (under clinical trials at present). Such patients should be referred for an oncologic opinion.
Rare younger patients (fit men under 70 years) irradiated for stage T1-T2a disease may be candidates for salvage prostatectomy and should be identified by periodic follow up including PSA (see definitions of relapse below), and clinical examination. The redevelopment of a palpable nodule (biopsy confirmed) is indicative of recurrent local disease. Six-monthly clinical and biochemical examination for three years, then increasing to annually, is suggested.
For remaining patients, early detection of recurrent disease through PSA, and subsequent earlier hormonal intervention, have not been shown to improve quality of life or overall survival. Results of ongoing randomized studies may lead to the identification of sub-groups of patients who may benefit directly from routine follow-up and subsequent early treatment. In general however, routine examination or tests in such patients are unhelpful and are not recommended.
Long-term complications following radiation are rarely severe (~1% RTOG grade 4 and ~5% grade 3 toxicity). Minor ano-rectal bleeding, alteration of bowel habit, and impotence are more common. Typical post-radiation changes in the rectum are of anterior wall telangiectasia. This area should only be biopsied with caution, as healing may be impaired. Urethral stricture is usually only seen in those who had TURP or other urethral surgery prior to radiation therapy. Urinary incontinence is very unusual (<1%).
Selected groups of patients may be asked to attend routine follow-up at one of the BC Cancer Agency clinics. They are being followed with the aim of providing accurate outcomes information to the treating oncologist.
It should be noted that prostatic cancer usually regresses slowly after radiation and palpable nodularity is frequently present in excess of one year post-radiation. A biochemical nadir may also take up to three years to be reached following radiation.
Revised 28 April 2014
LDR - Prostate BrachytherapyProstate brachytherapy can be used as a monotherapy for low and intermediate risk, as a monotherapy or in combination with HT for high-tier intermediate risk, or with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) as a form of dose escalation for selected intermediate and high risk patients.
BCCA Prostate Brachytherapy Program Brachytherapy Eligibility
Low-tier Intermediate risk
High-tier Intermediate risk
<T2a and iPSA < 10 and GS<6
<T2c and:iPSA 10-15 with GS=6or GS=7 with iPSA<10
<T2c and:iPSA 15-20 and GS=6
or iPSA 10-20 and GS7
EBRT 44-46Gy & Brachy boost
Min 3-4 mo neoadjuvant HT, followed by EBRT & brachy boost.HT duration: 12-36 mo.
(PSA density<0.2, 1-2 cores GS6 on adequate biopsy sampling, and <T2a. Active surveillance is recommended.
Option1. Brachy & 6 mo HT (3m neoadjuvant & 3m adjuvant)2. Brachy monotherapy3. EBRT & Brachy boost & 6-12m HT
OptionCS <T2a, iPSA <10, GS 8-10 in< 2 cores:EBRT 44-46GY & Brachy boost, with 6 mo or no HT
Additional general eligibility criteria (1)
Low risk and Low-tier intermediate risk PCDepending on the patient's age, general health, and disease-related parameters several therapeutic options may warrant consideration including; active surveillance for patients with minimal risk disease (recommended), brachytherapy alone, (with or without HT for cytoreduction only), radical prostatectomy, EBRT (with HT in selected patients), watchful waiting (for patients with significant co- morbidity or old age) or HT alone. [See
low risk PC under Management]LDR monotherapy is a standard treatment option for low risk prostate cancer. Good candidate for brachytherapy include men with > 10 years life expectancy, low co- morbidity, good baseline urinary function, prostate size < 60 cc, limited TURP defect.High-tier intermediate risk and high risk PCDepending on the patient's age, general health, and disease-related parameters, a variety of therapeutic approaches may be appropriate including: EBRT combined with hormone therapy (HT) (with or without dose escalated radiation using EBRT or brachytherapy), or brachytherapy +/- HT +/- EBRT (high-tier intermediate risk), or radical prostatectomy, EBRT alone, or HT alone. [See also intermediate risk PC and high risk PC under Management].
Use of Hormone Therapy Together with Prostate Brachytherapy
(HT more information see Medical Castration)
The addition of hormone therapy (HT) to prostate brachytherapy had failed to produce additional benefit to PSA recurrence-free survival (PRFS) with quality brachytherapy (1,3,4). While initial analysis of BCCA data shows small benefit to PRFS with HT(5)(6), recent BCCA 10 year update shows no additional benefit of HT on improving long term PSA outcome in low and low-tier intermediate risk patients with optimal implant dosimetry (good implant quality)(7). Use of HT appears to increase the risk of cardiac morbidity and sudden cardiac death, (this may be restricted to those with other baseline risk factors), and can be associated with a higher risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, glucose intolerance, muscle mass wasting, fatigue, decrease in QOL, decrease in sexual function and cognitive dysfunction(8). Patients with high-risk features being considered for primary EBRT are known to benefit from treatment combined with HT from multiple randomized prospective trials (9,10). Dose escalation using any form of brachytherapy further improves the PSA outcomes, as well as PCa cause specific survival (11)(12). The additional benefit of prolonged HT in combination with dose escalation using EBRT and brachytherapy boost is less significant than with EBRT alone (13,14).(15)(16)
Cytoreduction and Brachytherapy
Hormone therapy (HT) is used in conjunction with PB in order to downsize prostate gland and reduce pubic arch interference (make the implant technically easier/ possible). Cytoreduction can be accomplished by using 3 mo neoadjuvant and up to 3 mo adjuvant LHRH agonist (with antiandrogen given concurrently for one to three months) or LHRH antagonists. Total Androgen Blockade (TAB) has been shown to reduce prostate volume faster and to a greater degree than LHRH agonist alone. Cytoreduction can also be accomplished using combination of Avodart 0.5 mg with Casodex 50 mg daily for at least three months prior to and minimum one month after the implant (17).
Patients with relatively large prostates ( 50 -60cc) may have increased urinary morbidity with prostate brachytherapy (18,19). HT may be used to reduce the prostate volume; however, the morbidity of prostate brachytherapy may be more closely correlated with the pre-cytoreduced volume than the post-cytoreduced volume. Men with median lobes that project superiorly into the bladder are difficult to implant and may have a high risk of acute and prolonged urinary retention. Median lobe resection prior to brachytherapy may be considered and discussed with urologist. The use of peri- and post-operative dexamethasone may reduce the incidence of acute urinary retention in men with large prostates and/or high IPSS scores.BC Cancer Agency Prostate Brachytherapy Provincial Program
The British Columbia Cancer Agency (BCCA) program started in 1997, and to date has treated over 4500 patients; this is the largest program in Canada and one of the largest in the world. The current volume of over 550 implants per year is shared between 16 Radiation Oncologists. LDR brachytherapy is available at centres in Vancouver, Victoria, Fraser Valley/Abbotsford and Kelowna. All centres use techniques based on the Seattle experience combined with a planning algorithm developed in house and use consistent treatment protocols, selection criteria, and rigorous quality control (20). Numerous series with surgery have shown that the single most important factor affecting surgical outcomes (cure and toxicity) is institutional and individual surgeon experience. Generally a minimum case-volume is 30/year (21). Similar case-volumes exist with brachytherapy (22,23). A large provincial prospective database records baseline disease characteristics, technical (dosimetric) details, as well as follow up PSA and side effect scores on most patients. HDR is offered in context of clinical trial only (Kelowna).
BC Cancer Agency Prostate Brachytherapy Program - Published Outcomes
Low and Low-Tier Intermediate Risk PC
The BC Cancer Agency Brachytherapy Program has recently published10 year biochemical control rates of the first consecutive 1,006 patients (7)(5,6) . With median follow up of 7.5 years (42% intermediate risk and 58% low risk) show 5-year and 10-year disease free survival of 96.7% and 94.1% respectively. (7) Median PSA for the entire group was 0.04 ng/ml, indicating that long-term cancer cure is likely in the majority of patients (24).
Consistent with the PCRSG PC systemic review (25), a recent BC Cancer Agency matched-pair analysis shows that men treated with PB have superior outcomes for PSA control when compared to external beam radiation (EBRT). Five year PSA recurrence free rates are 95% (BT) and 85% (EBRT). After seven years, the BT result was unchanged, but the EBRT had fallen to 75%. Toxicity rates in this study show worse late urinary toxicity with BT, but worse bowel toxicity with EBRT(26).
Figure: The Fine and Gray’s Competing Risks estimates of disease free survival (DFS) and cause specific survival (CSS), and the Kaplan-Meier estimate for overall survival (OS) for all patients in the cohort (N=1006). (7)
High -Tier Intermediate and High Risk PC- 2012
In November of 2002, BCCA opened a randomized control phase II trial (accrued 41), which was further expanded to a randomized phase III trial in October 2004 (accrued 357) (ASCENDE RT), to compare the efficacy and toxicity of dose escalated radiating using EBRT vs. EBRT plus brachytherapy. Eligibility criteria included patients with ≤ Clinical stage (CS) T3a, any Gleason score (GS) and an initial PSA (iPSA) ≤40 ng/mL. All patients received 12 months HT (8 months neoadjuvant) and elective pelvic nodal irradiation (46Gy/23 fractions 4 field conformal). Randomization was between high dose conformal EBRT (78Gy total dose to prostate) vs. a brachytherapy boost (115Gy, I125 Permanent Prostate Implant)(27). Trial was closed Dec 1, 2011. Results are pending publication. An interim analysis of ASCENDE-RT phases II-III (including all patients started on LHRH injections on or before Aug 31, 2006 N=161 pts) showed superior outcomes with combination of EBRT with brachytherapy boost as compared with an EBRT alone. Single institution reports (14,29, 30, 31) and comprehensive literature review showed excellent long term outcomes in this group of patients treated with EBRT and brachytherapy, without HT (25).
Prostate Brachytherapy - PSA OutcomesBased on published retrospective cohorts, PSA recurrence free survival for low and intermediate risk disease is exceeding 90%.(7,14,28,29) Patients treated with “triple therapy” for high risk disease also achieve excellent long term disease control (>85%)(30,31). There no randomized control trials to offer insight into comparative treatment effectiveness.
The Prostate Cancer Results Study Group (PCRSG) comprehensive literature review (BJU 2012) (25) identified 18,000 studies involving treatment of prostate cancer published during 2000–2010. Only 848 were included in the analysis (>50.000 patients), based on key criteria: minimum/median follow-up of 5 years; stratification into low, intermediate- and high-risk groups; clinical and pathological staging; accepted standard definitions for PSA failure; minimum patient number of 100 in each risk group (50 for high-risk)(3). Patients treated with any form of brachytherapy had not only superior long term PSA outcome, but also showed remarkable durability of the results with long follow up. Unlike EBRT, high radiation dose delivered with brachytherapy produce durable long term outcomes in all PC risk groups, suggesting luck of metastatic disease at presentation in majority of patients (including high risk PCa) and ablative effect of high radiation dose on prostate tissue (24). Patients with all risk disease have excellent long term outcomes with any form brachytherapy. The potential difference in treatment outcome seen in this study may be attributed to different patient selection.
High-tier intermediate risk prostate cancer is a heterogeneous group. Based on published retrospective cohorts, patients with several disease risk factors may benefit from addition of EBRT and/or HT (6-12 months) to brachytherapy (13,14)(15). Preliminary results of ASCENDE RT phase III trial support this practice (27). RTOG 0815 randomized clinical trial is assessing the role of HT in patients with intermediate risk disease is ongoing.
Dose escalation using EBRT in prostate cancer has been proven to increase long term PSA recurrence free survival (PRFS) and, prostate cancer cause specific survival (CSS) in some series (32) but not in meta-analysis of dose escalation trials (33). It is acknowledged that PSA outcomes in PCa are not a surrogate for OS outcomes, however, dose escalation using any form of brachytherapy has been shown to improve the PSA outcomes, as well as PC cause specific survival (11,12)(25). For example, SEER data on 12,745 patients shows that at a median follow-up of only 6 years, use of brachytherapy improves prostate cancer cause specific survival in patients with high- risk/high Gleason Score (GS) prostate cancer (11). Recent BCCA outcome analysis of 1060 patients treated with EBRT with or without HT shows that patients treated with EBRT with or without HT for intermediate risk and high risk disease and estimated 10 year OS of >90% based on age and luck of co-morbidities had significantly improved OS when PC was biochemically controlled(2). It could be argued that striving for high cure rates in all patients with PC is unnecessary, as most patients with localized prostate cancer will die of other causes. However, younger patients with long life expectancy are those most likely to benefit from curative treatment, avoiding difficult issues with disease recurrence and need for secondary intervention with lifelong androgen suppression.
Prostate Brachytherapy Side Effects:
LDR brachytherapy is an hour long surgical day-care procedure where radioactive seeds are implanted permanently into the prostate. Most implants are done with general or spinal anaesthesia. Patients are discharged 2-3 hours later and resume normal daily activities in a few days. Severe long term side effects are uncommon. Side effects present in here are based on BCCA Prostate Brachytherapy Program peer review publications.
Urinary Side Effects:
Most men will experience some urinary symptoms after the procedure; about 50% will have moderate obstructive and/or irritative urinary symptoms lasting 6-12 months. Median time for IPSS to return to baseline is 12 months. At seven years after PB, the majority of patients (92.5%) will have very little or no urinary symptoms (18,34). Patients with larger prostate volume, worse baseline urinary function, and those given hormone therapy are more likely to have more irritative and obstructive urinary symptoms after PB(18,19). Five to ten percent of patients will require a Foley catheter for urinary obstruction (most for <1 week, 3% of all patients for several weeks or months; again this is more often seen in patients with worse baseline urinary function, protruding median lobes, and those with larger prostate size before implant (19). Long-term, < 3% of men will require urethral dilatation or a TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) to relieve obstructive urinary symptoms. With greater experience in the program, the overall acute rate of urinary side effects has declined. (19).
Rectal Side Effects:
Mild self-limiting rectal irritation affects 20%-30% of patients in the first 1-2 years after the implant. Rectal bleeding is reported in 2-7% of patients (1-5% will require a laser photocoagulation procedure) (35). Serious rectal injury (requiring major surgical intervention such as colostomy) occurs in 1/500 men treated with brachytherapy at the BCCA.
Inflammatory bowel disease and biopsies of the anterior rectal wall had been a major culprit of this serious complication. Anterior rectal wall biopsies are strongly discouraged as even relatively minor tissue trauma can precipitate development of a rectal fistula due to the poor vascular supply to this tissue after an implant. Similarly, laser coagulation for rectal bleeding is only undertaken when conservative measures have failed, and is best performed by a specialist who is familiar with managing post-brachytherapy complications.
A recent BC study of >1400 patients showed that the 8 year potency preservation rate is 60-80% in men age <60, 55-60% in those 60-69 and 20-30% in those >70. Loss of erectile function is most prominent in the first 3 years after the treatment, with little additional deterioration in potency rates at 5 and 8 years after brachytherapy. For the entire BC cohort, erectile function preservation was reported in 50% at 8 years (with 30 % of man using phosphodiesterase -5 inhibitors) (36). This is consistent with results published by others (37).Younger patients and those with better pre-treatment erectile function are likely to do better after the treatment (36,38) Many patients will have improvement in their function with oral GMP-specific phosphodiesterase inhibitors (PDE5 inhibitors: Sildenafil, Verdanefil, Tadalafil).
Brachytherapy in combination with EBRT - side effects
Despite EBRT and PB boost being a standard of care in the USA for over a decade, there has been surprisingly little written about the long terms side effects of the combined treatment vs. brachytherapy alone. A recent report of 585 men with high risk PCa treated with EBRT, brachytherapy and HT (median of 5 years, range, 2-11), showed 6.2% urinary retention, 4.3% incontinence (associated with a post implant TURP), 54.7% potency preservation and, 10.6% Grade 1-2 proctitis and 0.7% Grade 3-4 proctitis (2 ulcers and 2 fistulas)(39). Above toxicity profile is consisted with our brachytherapy monotherapy program results.(18,19,34-36). Toxicity analysis of ADCENDE RT study is pending. Preliminary analysis shows no grade 4 toxicity. Late urinary grade 3 toxicity was higher in brachytherapy arm (5.4% vs.1.2%). Late GI grade 3 toxicity was the same in both arms (1.8 and 1.2%).
The prostate brachytherapy implant is a surgical day-care procedure taking about 1 hour. Patients are discharged home two to three hours later. The radiation oncologist places the radioactive seeds into the prostate through the perineum, using between 20-28 needles, each carrying two to six seeds. The seeds are 0.5 cm titanium shells that contain I125 (Iodine 125) radioactive gas. The half life of I125 is 60 days. As radioactive decay is an exponential function, 50% of the radioactivity is released by two months, 88% by six months, 99% by 12 months.
The procedure is done using a real-time ultrasound guidance and fluoroscopy. Seed placement is guided using three-dimensional co-ordinates predetermined by a customized planning algorithm using computer modelling leaving 90-150 seeds permanently in the prostate. Most implants are done with general or spinal anesthesia (occasionally under local anesthesia). After the procedure a CT scan of the prostate is performed to ensure accurate position of the seeds and adequate radiation dose distribution within the prostate. This is a rigorous QA procedure that was built into our program as a standard practice from the outset. Very rarely, (1 in 200) men may be asked to come and have a second procedure done, where additional seeds may be placed in the prostate.
BCCA Prostate Brachytherapy Program: clinical trials
BCCA Prostate Brachytherapy Program is actively participating in several multi-institutional clinical trials, results of which are expected to further refine the treatment of intermediate and high risk PC. In particular, participation in RTOG 0815 and RTOG 0924 is encouraged. Degarelix trial for prostate downsizing and HDR trial for intermediate risk PC is offered in Kelowna. High risk PC registration trial of surgery vs. radiation and HT is pending, and will be offered initially in Vancouver.
(1) Davis BJ, Horwitz EM, Lee WR, Crook JM, Stock RG, Merrick GS, et al. American Brachytherapy Society consensus guidelines for transrectal ultrasound-guided permanent prostate brachytherapy. Brachytherapy 2012 Jan-Feb;11(1):6-19.
(2) Herbert C, Liu M, Tyldesley S, Morris WJ, Joffres M, Khaira M, et al. Biochemical control with radiotherapy improves overall survival in intermediate and high-risk prostate cancer patients who have an estimated 10-year overall survival of >90%. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2012 May 1;83(1):22-27.
(3) Stone NN, Potters L, Davis BJ, Ciezki JP, Zelefsky MJ, Roach M, et al. Customized dose prescription for permanent prostate brachytherapy: insights from a multicenter analysis of dosimetry outcomes. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2007 Dec 1;69(5):1472-1477.
(4) Potters L, Morgenstern C, Calugaru E, Fearn P, Jassal A, Presser J, et al. 12-Year Outcomes Following Permanent Prostate Brachytherapy in Patients with Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer. J Urol 2008 May;179(5 Suppl):S20-4.
(5) Morris WJ, Keyes M, Palma D, Spadinger I, McKenzie MR, Agranovich A, et al. Population-based study of biochemical and survival outcomes after permanent 125I brachytherapy for low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer. Urology 2009 Apr;73(4):860-5; discussion 865-7.
(6) Herbert C, Morris WJ, Keyes M, Hamm J, Lapointe V, McKenzie M, et al. Outcomes following iodine-125 brachytherapy in patients with Gleason 7, intermediate risk prostate cancer: A population-based cohort study. Radiother Oncol 2012 May;103(2):228-232.
(7) Morris WJ, Keyes M, Spadinger I, Kwan W, Liu M. Population-based 10-year oncologic outcomes after low-dose-rate brachytherapy for low-risk and intermediate-risk prostate cancer. Cancer 2013 Dec 26 2012.
(8) Keating NL, O'Malley AJ, Smith MR. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease during androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer. J Clin Oncol 2006 Sep 20;24(27):4448-4456.
(9) Bolla M, Van Tienhoven G, Warde P, Dubois JB, Mirimanoff RO, Storme G, et al. External irradiation with or without long-term androgen suppression for prostate cancer with high metastatic risk: 10-year results of an EORTC randomised study. Lancet Oncol 2010 Nov;11(11):1066-1073.
(10) Horwitz EM, Bae K, Hanks GE, Porter A, Grignon DJ, Brereton HD, et al. Ten-year follow-up of radiation therapy oncology group protocol 92-02: a phase III trial of the duration of elective androgen deprivation in locally advanced prostate cancer. J Clin Oncol 2008 May 20;26(15):2497-2504.
(11) Shen X, Keith SW, Mishra MV, Dicker AP, Showalter TN. The Impact of Brachytherapy on Prostate Cancer-Specific Mortality for Definitive Radiation Therapy of High-Grade Prostate Cancer: A Population-Based Analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2012
(12) D'Amico AV, Moran BJ, Braccioforte MH, Dosoretz D, Salenius S, Katin M, et al. Risk of death from prostate cancer after brachytherapy alone or with radiation, androgen suppression therapy, or both in men with high-risk disease. J Clin Oncol 2009 Aug 20;27(24):3923-3928.
(13) Dattoli M, Wallner K, True L, Bostwick D, Cash J, Sorace R. Long-term outcomes for patients with prostate cancer having intermediate and high-risk disease, treated with combination external beam irradiation and brachytherapy. J Oncol 2010;2010:471375. Epub 2010 Aug 18.
(14) Merrick GS, Butler WM, Galbreath RW, Lief J, Bittner N, Wallner KE, et al. Prostate cancer death is unlikely in high-risk patients following quality permanent interstitial brachytherapy. BJU Int 2011 Jan;107(2):226-232.
(15) Ho AY, Burri RJ, Cesaretti JA, Stone NN, Stock RG. Radiation dose predicts for biochemical control in intermediate-risk prostate cancer patients treated with low-dose-rate brachytherapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2009 Sep 1;75(1):16-22.
(16) Valicenti RK, Bae K, Michalski J, Sandler H, Shipley W, Lin A, et al. Does hormone therapy reduce disease recurrence in prostate cancer patients receiving dose-escalated radiation therapy? An analysis of Radiation Therapy Oncology Group 94-06. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2011 Apr 1;79(5):1323-1329.
(17) Merrick GS, Butler WM, Wallner KE, Galbreath RW, Allen ZA, Kurko B. Efficacy of neoadjuvant bicalutamide and dutasteride as a cytoreductive regimen before prostate brachytherapy. Urology 2006 Jul;68(1):116-120.
(18) Keyes M, Miller S, Moravan V, Pickles T, McKenzie M, Pai H, et al. Predictive factors for acute and late urinary toxicity after permanent prostate brachytherapy: long-term outcome in 712 consecutive patients. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2009 Mar 15;73(4):1023-1032.
(19) Keyes M, Schellenberg D, Moravan V, McKenzie M, Agranovich A, Pickles T, et al. Decline in urinary retention incidence in 805 patients after prostate brachytherapy: the effect of learning curve? Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2006 Mar 1;64(3):825-834.
(20) Keyes M, LaPointe V, Pickles T, Crook J, Spadinger I, McKenzie M, et al. Radiation Oncologists Quality Assurance Program In BC Cancer Agency Provincial Prostate Brachytherapy Program. Brachytherapy, Volume 10, Supplement 1, May-June 2011, Page S78 2011;10(May-June):s78.
(21) Barocas DA, Mitchell R, Chang SS, Cookson MS. Impact of surgeon and hospital volume on outcomes of radical prostatectomy. Urol Oncol 2010 May-Jun;28(3):243-250.
(22) Chen AB, D'Amico AV, Neville BA, Steyerberg EW, Earle CC. Provider case volume and outcomes following prostate brachytherapy. J Urol 2009 Jan;181(1):113-8; discussion 118.
(23) Keyes M, Morris WJ, Spadinger I, Araujo C, Cheung A, Chng N, et al. Radiation oncology and medical physicists quality assurance in British Columbia Cancer Agency Provincial Prostate Brachytherapy Program. Brachytherapy 2012 Jun 21.
(24) Hayden AJ, Morris JW, Keyes M, LaPointe V, McKenzie M, Pickles T, et al. The PSA Value at 4-5 years After Permanent Prostate Brachytherapy Predicts for Biochemical Failure Free Survival. Radiotherapy and Oncology 2010;96(Supplement 2, September 25):s2.
(25) Grimm PD, Billiet I, Bostwick DG, Dicker A. P., Frank SJ, Immerzeel J, et al. Comparative analysis of prostate-specific antigen free survival outcomes for patients with low, intermediate and high risk prostate cancer treatment by radical therapy. Results from the Prostate Cancer Results Study Group. BJU Int 2012;109(supp 1):22-29.
(26) Pickles T, Keyes M, Morris WJ. Brachytherapy or conformal external radiotherapy for prostate cancer: a single-institution matched-pair analysis. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2010 Jan 1;76(1):43-49.
(27) Morris WJ. ASCENDE-RT: Androgen suppression combined with elective nodal and dose escalated radiation therapy. ;http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00175396..
(28) Sylvester JE, Grimm PD, Wong J, Galbreath RW, Merrick G, Blasko JC. Fifteen-year biochemical relapse-free survival, cause-specific survival, and overall survival following i(125) prostate brachytherapy in clinically localized prostate cancer: Seattle experience. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2011 Oct 1;81(2):376-381.
(29) Taira AV, Merrick GS, Butler WM, Galbreath RW, Lief J, Adamovich E, et al. Long-term outcome for clinically localized prostate cancer treated with permanent interstitial brachytherapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2011 Apr 1;79(5):1336-1342.
(30) Bittner N, Merrick GS, Wallner KE, Butler WM, Galbreath R, Adamovich E. Whole-pelvis radiotherapy in combination with interstitial brachytherapy: does coverage of the pelvic lymph nodes improve treatment outcome in high-risk prostate cancer? Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2010 Mar 15;76(4):1078-1084.
(31) Fang LC, Merrick GS, Butler WM, Galbreath RW, Murray BC, Reed JL, et al. High-Risk Prostate Cancer With Gleason Score 8-10 and PSA Level 32) Kuban DA, Levy LB, Cheung MR, Lee AK, Choi S, Frank S, et al. Long-term failure patterns and survival in a randomized dose-escalation trial for prostate cancer. Who dies of disease? Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2011 Apr 1;79(5):1310-1317.
(33) Viani GA, Stefano EJ, Afonso SL. Higher-than-conventional radiation doses in localized prostate cancer treatment: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2009 Aug 1;74(5):1405-1418.
(34) Keyes M, Miller S, Moravan V, Pickles T, Liu M, Spadinger I, et al. Urinary Symptom Flare in 712 (125)I prostate brachytherapy patients: Long-Term Follow-Up. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2009 Feb 9.
(35) Keyes M, Spadinger I, Liu M, Pickles T, Pai H, Hayden A, et al. Rectal toxicity and rectal dosimetry in low-dose-rate (125)I permanent prostate implants: a long-term study in 1006 patients. Brachytherapy 2012 May-Jun;11(3):199-208.
(36) Hayden AJ, Keyes M, Moravan V, McKenzie M, Pickles T. Erectile Function Following I125 Permanent Prostate Brachytherapy: 5 and 8 years Results in 1411 men. Radiotherapy and Oncology 2010;96(Supplement 2, September 25):S3.
(37) Alemozaffar M, Regan MM, Cooperberg MR, Wei JT, Michalski JM, Sandler HM, et al. Prediction of erectile function following treatment for prostate cancer. JAMA 2011 Sep 21;306(11):1205-1214.
(38) Macdonald AG, Keyes M, Kruk A, Duncan G, Moravan V, Morris WJ. Predictive factors for erectile dysfunction in men with prostate cancer after brachytherapy: Is dose to the penile bulb important? International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2005;63(1):155-163.
(39) Stone NN, Cesaretti JA, Rosenstein B, Stock RG. Do high radiation doses in locally advanced prostate cancer patients treated with 103Pd implant plus external beam irradiation cause increased urinary, rectal, and sexual morbidity? Brachytherapy 2010 Apr-Jun;9(2):114-118.
Updated 12 May 2009
Efficacy data does not allow meaningful assessment as to the benefit-risk ratio of high intensity focus ultrasound (HIFU) as a primary treatment for localized prostate cancer, and hence cannot currently be recommended as standard therapy given current alternatives.
HIFU must be developed in a controlled manner within the context of a clinical trial, which should be approved by an Ethical Review Board (ERB), who should also monitor patient selection, informed consent, accrual, complication rates and other outcomes information. The BC Cancer Agency Genitourinary Tumour Group should also receive patient treatment data so that it may be added to data on other comparative modalities including active surveillance, prostatectomy, and radiotherapy.
In cases of radiorecurrent localized prostate cancer, where treatment options are more limited and associated with significant morbidity, HIFU could be considered a salvage treatment option associated with discussion of alternatives including salvage prostatectomy, cryotherapy, brachytherapy, or androgen deprivation therapy. Although again this should be in the context of an ethics approved protocol with the intention of collecting data prospectively for the purpose of publication in a peer reviewed journal.
You can download the full report, BCCA-GUTG assessment HIFU for prostate cancer .
All numbered parenthetical references in this section, are to the References list for the Osteoporosis Screening Guidelines.
Prostate Cancer, Androgen Ablation and Osteoporosis
Prostate cancer is the commonest cause of cancer in men in Canada. In 1999 over 2,600 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in BC. By 2020 we expect a 50% rise in incidence, because of increasing life expectancy and age of the population.
Fifty years ago hormonal therapy was carried out by orchidectomy. Now the majority of men choose medical castration with LHRH agonists. Androgen ablation (AA) is used for:
This third category is the largest and has the longest potential duration of AA. Specifically, estimates of prostate cancer survival five years after PSA failure from radiotherapy can be as high as 76-78% for patients with a biopsy Gleason score of 6 or less or a pre-treatment PSA 10 or less (4). After radical prostatectomy and PSA relapse the median actuarial time to metastases was eight years from the time of PSA level elevation (5). Once men developed metastatic disease, the median actuarial time to death was five years. This gives a potential total of 13 years of androgen deprivation in patients who fail biochemically.
Osteoporosis is only one of several adverse effects of AA. Others include hot flashes, fatigue, an increase in body fat, memory loss and depression. The premise of this work is that earlier diagnosis and prevention of fractures should decrease the medical problems, as well as improve patients' quality of life (QOL).
Osteoporosis in Men Without Cancer
Osteoporosis can be defined as "a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and micro-architectural deterioration of bone tissue with a resultant increase in fragility and risk of fracture".
In Canada 1 in 8 of all men have osteoporosis and with the ageing population this will increase dramatically over the next decade. Estimates of the lifetime risk of an osteoporotic fracture is 13-25% in men – 2-4X less than women. One third of hip fractures occur in men. Men have a gradual age related loss in BMD of about 10% per decade beginning at age 30 years (6).
Many vertebral fractures are occult and asymptomatic but they correlate with a poorer overall survival. Vertebral fractures increase the risk of future fractures. Similarly, osteoporotic hip fractures are associated with increased mortality: being 33% in the year afterwards. In addition, up to 70% of cases with hip fractures never regain to their previous functional status and QOL. Some 20% require long term care.
Early surgical management improves the results. Open vertebral surgery is reserved for rare cases with neurological deficits or instability. Newer procedures include vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty using cement injections into the bone. The care cost for treatment of fractures is estimated at over US$3B in the USA. Most important of all, osteoporotic fractures are preventable.
 BC Cancer Agency data shows that testosterone recovery to 5nmol/l takes a year on average with 80% reaching this at two years post cessation of LHRH therapy. Longer acting LHRH formulations may lead to significantly poorer recovery of testosterone.
Most studies reported the use of dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) to assess BMD. DXA bone measurement is the most effective way to estimate fracture risk. This test is relatively inexpensive, quick and accurate. It has a precision of about 1-3%, depending upon site and absolute degree of mineralization. There is variability between patient measurements of about 3-4% (7). Unfortunately, DXA equipment manufacturers do not allow standardized measurements, so comparisons between machines are therefore difficult at present. In any situation requiring follow-up it is better to use the same machine consistently.
BMD is classified in comparison with a normal young adult group for menopausal white women. There is still debate over the reference group to be used to derive the T-scores in men. The T-score is the number of SD above or below the mean young adult peak bone density.
While these reference ranges are also used in men, they have not been validated for men. The use of BMD as a basis for therapy in men has not been established (8). For each standard deviation unit of decrease in BMD there is an exponential increase of fracture risk. The presence of vertebral fracture - deformity implies a risk of further fracture equal to the BMD – 1SD.
This work does not address the issues of attempting to measure bone density in men with osteoblastic bony metastatic disease. In some patients it may be necessary to monitor alternative sites. Osteoarthritis also limits the validity and reliability of lumbar spine BMD measurements, but the spine may still be useful for serial examinations of change.
BMD and Identifying Men in the Population at High Risk of Fractures
There is good randomized clinical trial evidence that clinical evaluation combined with BMD outperforms any single method of risk-assessment (9). BMD should only be measured if it will affect management decisions.
Men over 50 years should be assessed for risk factors. It is now recognised that osteoporosis is common in men (9). It has been estimated that 50% of men with osteoporosis have secondary causes (8).
Major risk factors with level one evidence that they increase the relative risk of future osteoporotic fractures are:
Residents of long-term facilities are at particular risk of fracture – they have low BMD, advanced age, poor function and strength, poor nutrition, are at risk for falls, and use multiple medications (10).
Medical interventions have only been shown to be effective in men over 65 years of age. More than 70% of men with prostate cancer who have external beam radiotherapy are over 65 years.
It may require a large number of BMD screening studies to prevent a single fracture. Until there is good evidence supporting the cost effectiveness of 'routine' screening in healthy men or indeed the efficacy of specific drug interventions, an individualized approach is recommended.
The average 10-year probability of fracture is about 5% age 60-65 rising to >10% over age 75. For a man over 75 years with T-score <-2.5 his risk is 20-25% (Figure 1). It therefore appears that men are as prone to fracture as women at a given BMD are.
 Osteopenia is also used by radiologists in describing low mineral content on plain x-ray film.
Testosterone (TTT) affects bone development and resorption. Androgens mediate osteoblast proliferation and differentiation and increase bone matrix production. TTT also effects growth factors such as TGF-beta and IGF-1 that may be important in osteoblast proliferation. Estradiol is a potent product through peripheral aromatization. This enzyme is active in bone and thus bone effects may be mediated through estrogens as in postmenopausal osteoporosis. LHRH therapy can reduce estradiol levels by almost 50% (ref 11). TTT loss may also effect calcitonin leading to resorption by decreasing the effect of endogenous calcitonin. The mechanisms of TTT on bone are therefore not well understood.
Jackson (12) found that over 70% of men with hip fractures following falls had hypogonadism. The relationship of hypogonadism and male osteoporosis has been known for decades but only recently has research looked at osteoporosis induced by treatment of prostate cancer.
Melton LJ 3rd 2003 published a population study reviewing 429 men who had orchiectomies from 1956-2000 and compared the fracture risk to the community and found a 3.5-fold increase in risk.
Daniell's (14) 1997 review showed that orchidectomy increased the fracture risk from 1% (no hormonal therapy) to 28% at 7 years and 48% at 9 years (Figure 2). A later report (2000) focused on the rate of BMD loss following 26 men. Overall there was a 4% loss in BMD in years 1 and 2 and 2% pa after year 4. By 18 months it was statistically significant compared to baseline.
A much larger study by Oefelein (15) with 181 patients on androgen ablation showed an actuarial 4% fracture rate (median duration of androgen ablation was 44 months) at 5 years and 20% at 10 years. (Combining the 8 patients at risk at 10 years in the Daniell and Oefelein papers yields a 35% crude fracture rate.) In the Oefelein (15) paper there were 9 fractures (5 hip, 4 extremity, 1 spine (one patient had 2 fractures)). Only 5 of the 9 were confirmed to have osteoporosis on BMD scan, the rest were osteopenic on plain X-ray. 62% of these patients had metastatic disease but the authors clearly distinguished osteoporotic from pathologic fractures. Slender white patients are at the greatest risk for AA associated fractures. The fracture rate seen by Oefelein (15) should be compared with men over 65 years who have an incidence of 0.5% for hip fractures from osteoporosis. This gives an odds ratio of about 5 for hip fractures. The risk of any fracture over the age of 70 is 1% giving an odds ratio also of 5.
Townsend (16) in a survey of 224 patients on LHRH treatment for a mean of 22 months showed a 9% fracture rate. Wei (11) studied BMD in 32 men beginning AA. 63% (5/8) had osteopenia / porosis before treatment. A significantly higher percentage, 88% (21/24), met these criteria after more than a year of AA. On the basis of regression analysis, an estimated 48 months of AAA would be necessary to develop BMD criteria for osteopenia in the lumbar spine for a man with average BMD at the initiation of therapy. This has implications for followup practices for men with normal baseline BMDs.
Oefelein (17) has also reported from 195 men that the 24 cases (9 of these cases fractured before initiation of AA) with skeletal fractures had a significantly worse overall survival from prostate cancer. This factor remains on multiple regression analysis to correct for patients with metastatic disease and nadir PSA (RR 7.4). Baseline testosterone levels were not reported and this may affect both cancer response and osteoporosis risk.
Berruti (18) followed 35 men with AA and found the mean gm/cm2 decreases at both the hip and spine at 1 year. BMD decreased 2-5% in 8 men, 5-10% in 8 men and >10% in 3 men for the spine (and 6, 6, 3 respectively for the hip). It should be noted that a few men even had unexpected rises in BMD.
Overall the data shows a 4% annual loss of BMD in the femoral neck (CI 0-7%) in the first 2 years of AA (then 1% annually) and 3% in the hip (CI 2-4%). If you take a bone loss of 3% per year each 2-3 years of AA will double the fracture risk (1 unit SD of T-score is about 8-10%). Added to this are over 60% of cases that are already osteopenic and 5-20% osteoporotic at baseline (19, 20).
Dr. Paul Blood at the BC Cancer Agency's Vancouver Island Centre has undertaken a systematic review of the literature, and the meta-analysis is summarised as follows:
Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Review:
Fracture Risk Review:
Although BMD loss is of concern, fractures are the main cause of morbidity, mortality, wrong diagnosis, unnecessary investigation and treatment. A total of 836 men with prostate cancer on AA were screened for osteoporotic fractures in four studies (14-16, 31). The combination of theses studies yields an odds ratio for all osteoporotic fractures of 7 (CI 3-17). Those at the hip have more serious consequences and the odds ratio for hip fractures is 5 (CI 3-10).
Updated 18 January 2007
The standard first line therapy of osteoporosis according to Pharmacare is etidronate. This is the only drug therapy covered. Presumably this is primarily based on cost:
Pharmacare criteria for use of alendronate/ risedronate are stringent, for example:
The BC Cancer Agency only covers the use of bisphosphonates (clodronate, pamidronate) for the treatment of multiple myeloma or breast cancer with bone metastases.
Indications for obtaining a further opinion and care include:
Guidelines for the prevention of osteoporosis for men with prostate cancer
Hypogonadism and Testosterone Assays
Normal testosterone (TTT) in an assay at the BCCA laboratory is now defined as >3.5ug/ml. It combines free TTT (left) with albumin bound TTT (top right) and sex hormone binding globulin bound TTT (bottom right). These make up approximately 1-2%, 35% and 65% of TTT respectively. The first two combined make up the bioavailable TTT. This is the important component in a ‘true’ diagnosis of hypogonadism, but is not measured by many laboratories. It is therefore possible for a man to have a ‘low normal’ TTT at BCCA and have hypogonadism defined by the bio TTT. Testosterone levels decline with age.
Increasing incidence of hypogonadism with age by various assays. Harman et al. J Clin endocrinal Metab 2001; 86(2): 724-31.
Dr. Graeme Duncan: a Radiation Oncologist at the Vancouver Centre of the BC Cancer Agency and Clinical Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
Dr. Winkle Kwan: a Radiation Oncologist at the Fraser Valley Centre of the BC Cancer Agency and Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
Ms. Dianne Kapty: the Pharmacy Professional Practice Leader at the Fraser Valley Centre of the BC Cancer Agency.
Dr. Brian Lentle: Emeritus Professor, University of British Columbia, and Radiologist, BC Children’s and Women’s Health Sciences Centre, Vancouver, BC. He has received honoraria for teaching and research in osteoporosis from Proctor and Gamble.
Dr. David Kendler: Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine (Endocrinology), University of British Columbia, and Director, Osteoporosis Program, Providence Health Care, Vancouver, BC.
Declaration of potential conflicts of interest:
Dr. Brian Lentle has received honoraria for teaching and research in osteoporosis from Proctor and Gamble. Dr. David Kendler has received funding from Merck, Proctor and Gamble / Aventis, Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, NPS, and Glaxo for teaching, advisory board activities, and research.
Dr. Paul Blood: a Radiation Oncologist at the Victoria Cancer Centre is to be thanked for his contribution to the knowledge base, literature searches and systematic review of published studies. His work will appear independently as his thesis.
Ms. Cheri Van Patten: Clinical Coordinator of Nutrition Services is to be thanked for her contribution in developing the patient handout “Guidelines for the Prevention of Osteoporosis in Men with Prostate Cancer receiving Hormone therapy”.
Updated 23 May 2012
Revised 18 May 2012
Revised 18 May 2012
Serum PSA is widely used to aid detection of prostate cancer. Unfortunately it is not a particularly good screening test, with a positive predictive value of ~25%. While it is an independent predictor of disease progression and treatment failure, serum PSA does not distinguish between clinically indolent cancers and those that may go on to cause death.
A continuum of prostate cancer risk exists with varying PSA levels, and ‘normal’ levels vary by age.
PSA level (ng/ml)
Prostate cancer prevalence %
Age-specific median value
Age-adjusted reference ranges, PSA velocity (rate of change over time), free/total PSA ratio, and PSA density (PSA level relative to gland volume) improves the sensitivity and specificity of PSA as a screening test. Currently, individualized risk assessments of not only of prostate cancer but also of “significant” prostate cancer, is based on these determinants of PSA, as well as digital rectal examination (DRE) of the prostate, patient age, co-morbidities, family history, ethnicity, and prior biopsy history. These refinements have not been subject to randomized studies. Men who are interested in their risk of prostate cancer should consider using an on-line risk calculator such as Your Prostate Cancer Risk Calculator.
24 May 2012
Revised May 2009
The Pros and Cons of PSA Screening for Prostate Cancer brochure provides information to assist men make an informed decision about screening for prostate cancer using the PSA test.
Print copies of the brochure may be requested by BC and Yukon residents from:
BC Cancer Agency Library675 West 10th Ave.Vancouver, B.C. V5Z 1L3Tel: 1-888.675.8001 Local 8003Email:
Further patient information on prostate cancer can be found in the Health Info section of our website.
1. The decision to use PSA testing for the early detection of prostate cancer should be individualized. Patients should be informed of the known risks and the potential benefits PSA testing.
Risks of PSA testing and Early Detection of Prostate Cancer
Benefits of PSA testing and Early Detection of Prostate Cancer
2. Early detection and risk assessment of prostate cancer should be offered to asymptomatic men 50-55 years of age or older with an estimated life expectancy of more than 10 years who wish to be screened.
3. Abnormal results trigger referral to urologists.
4. Treatment Guidelines for PSA-detected Cancer.
Revised 18 May 2012
1. Ornish D, Weidner G, Fair WR, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. J Urol. 2005 Sep;174(3):1065-9; discussion 9-70.
2. Bill-Axelson A, Holmberg L, Ruutu M, et al. Radical prostatectomy versus watchful waiting in early prostate cancer. N Engl J Med. 2011 May 5;364(18):1708-17.
3. Widmark A, Klepp O, Solberg A, et al. Endocrine treatment, with or without radiotherapy, in locally advanced prostate cancer (SPCG-7/SFUO-3): an open randomised phase III trial. Lancet. 2009 Jan 24;373(9660):301-8.
4. Wilt T. Initial results of the Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT) American Urology Association Annual meeting; 2011; Washington DC; 2011.
5. Hugosson J, Carlsson S, Aus G, et al. Mortality results from the Goteborg randomised population-based prostate-cancer screening trial. Lancet Oncol. 2010 Aug;11(8):725-32.
6. Schroder FH, Hugosson J, Roobol MJ, et al. Prostate-cancer mortality at 11 years of follow-up. N Engl J Med. 2012 Mar 15;366(11):981-90.
7. Andriole GL, Crawford ED, Grubb RL, 3rd, et al. Prostate cancer screening in the randomized Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial: mortality results after 13 years of follow-up. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Jan 18;104(2):125-32.
8. Pickles T, Group SA. PSA Toolkit: PSA Screening and Testing for Prostate Cancer: Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; 2009.
9. Lilja H, Ulmert D, Bjork T, et al. Long-term prediction of prostate cancer up to 25 years before diagnosis of prostate cancer using prostate kallikreins measured at age 44 to 50 years. J Clin Oncol. 2007 Feb 1;25(4):431-6.
10. Wolf AM, Wender RC, Etzioni RB, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for the early detection of prostate cancer: update 2010. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010 Mar-Apr;60(2):70-98.
11. BC Cancer Agency. Cancer Management Guidelines. Prostate Cancer: Management: Low Risk. 2007.
12. BC Cancer Agency. Cancer Management Guidelines. Prostate Cancer: Management: Intermediate Risk. 2007.
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