When should active surveillance for prostate cancer stop if no progression is detected?

A significant proportion of screen-detected men with prostate cancer may be overdiagnosed. Active Surveillance (AS) has emerged as a way to mitigate this problem, by delaying treatment of men, who are at low-risk until this becomes necessary. However, it is not known after how much time or biopsy rounds should patients stop AS and transition to conservative management (CM), if no progression is detected.

We used a microsimulation model with natural history of prostate cancer based on ERSPC and SEER data. We modeled referral to treatment while in AS, based on Johns Hopkins treatment-free survival data. We projected lifetime costs and effects of AS (and radical treatment, if progression is detected) under different biopsy follow-up schedules compared to CM, where radical treatment only occurs when men would be clinically diagnosed in absence of screening.

For men with low-risk disease in younger age groups (55-65), AS is cost-effective for up to 7 yearly biopsy rounds. For men older than 65, even one biopsy round results in quality adjusted life years (QALYs) lost, though it may result in QALYs gained for men without previous screening. For men with intermediate-risk disease AS is cost-effective even for men in 65-75 age group.

The benefit of AS when compared to CM is strongly dependent on life expectancy and disease risk. Clinicians should take this into account when selecting men to AS, deciding on biopsy frequency and when to stop AS surveillance rounds and transition to CM.

The Prostate. 2017 Apr 17 [Epub ahead of print]

Tiago M de Carvalho, Eveline A M Heijnsdijk, Harry J de Koning

Department of Public Health, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.