Kinetics of serum prostate-specific antigen after external beam radiation for clinically localized prostate cancer

Gunar K. Zagars, Alan Pollack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Background and purpose: To determine the kinetics of serum prostate- specific antigen (PSA) after radiation therapy of localized prostate cancer and to evaluate whether such kinetics provide prognostic information. Materials and methods: Eight hundred forty-one men with serial PSA determinations who underwent external beam radiation without androgen ablation were analyzed to determine postradiation PSA kinetic parameters (half-life and doubling time) and to correlate these parameters with disease outcome. Non-linear regression techniques were used to determine half-lives and doubling times. Results: The postradiation serum PSA data fitted well to first order kinetic models. The median PSA half-life was 1.6 months (range 0.59.2 months). There was no correlation between half-life and T-stage or Gleason grade. A significant but quantitatively weak correlation was present between the pretreatment PSA level and half-life; lower pretreatment levels were associated with longer half-lives. Half-life did not correlate with disease outcome whether the endpoint was local recurrence, distant metastasis or rising PSA. In 263 men with a rising postradiation PSA profile the median PSA doubling time was 12.2 months (range 0.8-80.2 months). Faster doubling times were significantly associated with higher T-stage, higher Gleason grade and higher pretreatment PSA levels. Thus, patients with initially adverse disease developed faster rising PSA values after treatment than patients with less adverse disease. The most striking correlation was between rapid doubling time and the likelihood of metastatic relapse. Patients who developed metastases had a median PSA doubling time of 4.2 months compared to a median doubling time of 11.7 months in patients who developed local recurrence. Overall, patients with a PSA doubling time of less than 8 months had a 7-year actuarial metastatic rate of 54%, while patients with a PSA doubling time exceeding 8 months had only a 7% metastatic rate. Particularly ominous was the combination of a doubling time shorter than 8 months which began to rise within the first year; by 3 years 50% of these men had metastases and all were actuarially projected to develop such relapse by 6.5 years. Conclusions: Overall, the clinical utility of postradiation serum PSA kinetics was small. There were no discernible uses for PSA half-life. In patients with a rising PSA profile the faster the kinetics the more adverse the disease. Doubling times shorter than 8 months, especially if the rise begins in the first year, predict for metastatic relapse. However, in the absence of decisively useful treatment for metastatic prostate cancer the virtues of the early detection of metastases remain unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-221
Number of pages9
JournalRadiotherapy and Oncology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate-specific antigen
  • Radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Urology


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