Objective To assess the potential role of a recently developed reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), that detects circulating prostate cells in patients with prostate cancer, in the management of clinically localized cancer.
Patients and methods A total of 138 men (mean age 62.5 years, range 49–70) scheduled for radical retropubic prostatectomy had an RT-PCR assay before surgery. The results were compared with the final pathological stage of disease, the results from local imaging techniques, serum PSA levels, digital rectal examination (DRE) and Gleason score.
Results Enhanced RT-PCR for PSA was the best predictor of potential surgical failures; 70% of patients with positive surgical margins or invasion into the seminal vesicle were identified pre-operatively by a positive RT-PCR assay (odds ratio=12.0, positive predictive value=64%, negative predictive value=87%). RTPCR was able to identify pre-operatively patients with adverse pathology, despite low serum PSA values (<4.0 ng/mL). In patients with high PSA level (>10 ng/mL), RT-PCR discriminated between potentially curable candidates and those with established extraprostatic disease.
Conclusions RT-PCR for PSA adds unique prognostic information when considering patients for radical surgery. The final role for the RT-PCR assay is as yet undefined; however, the ability to detect potential surgical failures pre-operatively using a molecular approach should have a significant impact on the management of patients with prostate cancer.