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Article of the week: Prognostic Gleason grade group predicts survival

Every week the Editor-in-Chief selects the Article of the Week from the current issue of BJUI. The abstract is reproduced below and you can click on the button to read the full article, which is freely available to all readers for at least 30 days from the time of this post.

In addition to the article itself, there is an accompanying editorial written by a prominent member of the urological community. This blog is intended to provoke comment and discussion and we invite you to use the comment tools at the bottom of each post to join the conversation.

If you only have time to read one article this week, it should be this one.

Prognostic Gleason grade grouping: data based on the modified Gleason scoring system

Phillip M. Pierorazio*, Patrick C. Walsh*, Alan W. Partin* and Jonathan I. Epstein*†‡

Departments of *Urology, Pathology and Oncology, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and The James Brady Buchannan Urological Institute, Baltimore, MD, USA

OBJECTIVE

• To investigate pathological and short-term outcomes since the most recent Gleason system modifications by the International Society of Urological Pathology (ISUP) in an attempt to divide the current Gleason grading system into prognostically accurate Gleason grade groups.

PATIENTS AND METHODS

• We queried the Johns Hopkins Radical Prostatectomy Database (1982–2011), approved by the institutional review board, for men undergoing radical prostatectomy (RP) without a tertiary pattern since 2004 and identified 7869 men.

• Multivariable models were created using preoperative and postoperative variables; prognostic grade group (Gleason grade ≤6; 3 + 4; 4 + 3; 8; 9–10) was among the strongest predictors of biochemical recurrence-free (BFS) survival.

RESULTS

• Significant differences were noted among the Gleason grade groups at biopsy; differences were noted in the race, PSA level, clinical stage, number of positive cores at biopsy and the maximum percentage of positive cores among the Gleason grade groups at RP.

• With a median (range) follow-up of 2 (1–7) years, 5-year BFS rates for men with Gleason grade ≤6, 3 + 4, 4 + 3, 8 and 9–10 tumours at biopsy were 94.6, 82.7, 65.1, 63.1 and 34.5%, respectively (P < 0.001 for trend); and 96.6, 88.1, 69.7, 63.7 and 34.5%, respectively (P < 0.001), based on RP pathology.

CONCLUSIONS

• The 2005 ISUP modifications to the Gleason grading system for prostate carcinoma accurately categorize patients by pathological findings and short-term biochemical outcomes but, while retaining the essence of the Gleason system, there is a need for a change in its reporting to more closely reflect tumour behaviour.

• We propose reporting Gleason grades, including prognostic grade groups which accurately reflect prognosis as follows: Gleason score ≤6 (prognostic grade group I); Gleason score 3+4=7 (prognostic grade group II); Gleason score 4+3=7 (prognostic grade group III); Gleason score 4+4=8 (prognostic grade group (IV); and Gleason score 9–10 (prognostic grade group (V).

 

Read Previous Articles of the Week

 

Editorial: Incorporating prognostic grade grouping into Gleason grades

The ‘Gleason Grading System’ first proposed by Donald Gleason in 1966 was a revolutionary system for its time. As it advocated the use of a sum score that combined the two most common patterns of prostate cancer seen in a radical prostatectomy specimen to predict the biological outcome of the tumour, rather than the worst pattern that was in common usage with other tumour types, it was truly innovative. Furthermore, although several other classification systems for prostate cancer have been proposed since then, none has stood the test of time as well as the Gleason system and certainly no other system is in widespread use internationally.

Gleason and Mellinger went on to make adjustments and modifications to this classification system in 1974 and 1977, as the series of cases examined was expanded from the original 270 patients to >1000 patients.

Since then, there have been further changes to the Gleason Grading System with the advent of immunocytochemistry and in terms of clarification of the size and spacing of individual acini that are seen in the various patterns originally illustrated by Gleason. A tertiary pattern of prostate cancer, mentioned in passing by Gleason, has also become more clearly identified in a proportion of cases.

Possibly the most important advance regarding the Gleason Grading System was the result of an International Consensus Conference of Urological Pathologists in 2005. This meeting, comprising >80 specialist pathologists from 20 countries, published the updated or ‘Modified Gleason Grading System’. These guidelines were based on the changes in practice that had taken place in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer in the previous 40 years and included evidence for the confirmation that Gleason 1 and 2 patterns should not be assigned on prostatic needle biopsy specimens and that all cribriform areas of tumour were best regarded as Gleason pattern 4 rather than Gleason pattern 3.

Although these modifications have been useful for the surgeon and pathologist, they have not clarified the Gleason grading system for the patient. It is not easy to explain or to understand why a system that in theory could produce a range of Gleason sum scores from 2 to 10, is in practice actually limited on prostatic biopsy to Gleason sum score 6 to 10. Thus, rather confusingly, Gleason 6 is the most favourable category of prostatic carcinoma in terms of prognosis, rather than indicating a ‘middle-of-the-scale’ tumour.

The paper presented in this issue of BJUI, ‘Prognostic Gleason grade grouping: data based on the modified Gleason scoring system’, attempts to compensate for this by allowing the categorisation of prostatic carcinoma not only in terms of Gleason sum score, but also into prognostic groups I to V that correlate with the sum score and may be easier for the patient to appreciate.

This is an important next step in the development of the Gleason Grading System and hopefully one that will be embraced by surgeons and pathologists and more easily accepted by patients.

Alex Freeman
Department of Histopathology, University College London Hospital, London, UK

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