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The rationale for adjuvant chemotherapy for high-risk prostate cancer

Kent, Elizabeth C.; Hussain, Maha H.A.

Prostate cancer

Purpose of review With the advent of prostate-specific antigen, stage migration has resulted in a shift towards early-stage prostate cancer at diagnosis. Although radical prostatectomy and radical radiotherapy can be curative in organ-confined disease, there remains a significant proportion of early-stage patients who go on to develop progressive, incurable disease. This review will highlight developments in the identification of high-risk patients, and summarize the results of investigations of adjuvant chemotherapy in this setting.

Recent findings The ability to identify patients at high risk of developing progressive disease is improving. Both preoperative and postoperative variables, as well as newer radiographic and molecular tools, can identify at-risk patients who may benefit from adjuvant therapy. Coupled with developments in chemotherapeutic agents for prostate cancer, this provides the rationale for investigating chemotherapy in this setting. Unfortunately, to date, reported trials involving adjuvant chemotherapy in prostate cancer are few, and generally involve small numbers of patients. Some of the studies confirm that certain populations of patients, such as those with node-positive disease, may benefit from systemic therapy. Definitive data, however, will be derived from ongoing randomized trials investigating adjuvant chemotherapy.

Summary Although definitive data regarding systemic chemotherapy in adjuvant therapy are scarce, the results of the available studies, and the increasing accuracy in delineating the population at risk, have laid the foundation for future and ongoing studies in this area.

The Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Correspondence to Maha Hussain, MD, FACP, 1500 East Medical Center Drive, 7314 CCGC, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0946, USA Tel: +1 734 936 8906; fax: +1 734 615 2719; e-mail:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.