PSA Test May Not Be As Useful as Many Researchers Thought

April 5, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (April 5, 2016) — The typical test used to gauge how well treatment works for patients with localized prostate cancer may not be as useful as many researchers thought, according to researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center.

In a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology, which is published by Wolters Kluwer, the researchers analyzed data from 12 randomized controlled trials of external beam radiation treatment for 6,884 patients with non-metastatic prostate cancer. These randomized controlled trials have been conducted around the world, from the 1980s until the 2010s.  In addition to looking at outcomes with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test (the typical test used to gauge how well the treatments worked), they examined long-term outcomes, such as metastasis, death from prostate cancer, and death from any cause.

Researchers found little correlation between PSA outcomes and patient survival, leading researchers to question how useful the PSA test is.

“Currently, many clinical trials for prostate cancer patients are using PSA (the main marker we check after treatment) as a proxy for how long patients will survive. We found that our reliance on the PSA test, is not as useful as many researchers thought. Thus, our findings have broad implications for the design of future clinical trials and the interpretation of current and previous studies,” said lead study investigator Nicholas G. Zaorsky, MD, resident physician in radiation oncology at Fox Chase.

Moving forward, researchers may need to find a better detection method than the PSA test to determine how patients are progressing and a better method for determining which patients may be at risk for metastasis.


The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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