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Meaningful end points and outcomes in men on active surveillance for early-stage prostate cancer


Purpose of review

Active surveillance is a management strategy for early-stage prostate cancer designed to balance early detection of aggressive disease and overtreatment of indolent disease. We evaluate recently reported outcomes and discuss the potentially most important endpoints for such an approach.

Recent findings

The past 2 years have seen the publication of two trials of watchful waiting versus immediate treatment and updates of multiple active surveillance cohorts for men with early-stage prostate cancer. The watchful waiting trials demonstrated a small potential mortality benefit to immediate treatment when applied to all risk levels (6% absolute difference at 15 years), emphasizing the importance of a risk-adapted strategy. In reported active surveillance cohorts, prostate cancer death and metastasis remain rare events. Intermediate outcomes such as progression to treatment and upgrading/upstaging on final disease appear consistent among cohorts, but must be interpreted with caution when compared with historical controls of immediate treatment because of potential selection bias.


The safety of active surveillance has been reinforced by recent reports. Accumulation of additional data on men with intermediate risk cancer and development and validation of new biomarkers of risk will allow refined and, likely, expanded use of this approach.

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