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Article of the week: The ProtecT trial: analysis of the patient cohort, baseline risk stratification and disease progression

Every week, the Editor-in-Chief selects an 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 this post, there is an editorial written by a prominent member of the urological community and a podcast produced by on of our resident podcasters. Please use the comment buttons below to join the conversation.

If you only have time to read one article this week, we recommend this one. 

The ProtecT trial: analysis of the patient cohort, baseline risk stratification and disease progression

Richard J. Bryant*, Jon Oxley, Grace J. Young‡§, Janet A. Lane‡§, Chris Metcalfe‡§, Michael Davis, Emma L. Turner, Richard M. Martin, John R. Goepel, Murali Varma**, David F. Griffiths**, Ken Grigor††, Nick Mayer‡‡, Anne Y. Warren§§, Selina Bhattarai¶¶, John Dormer‡‡, Malcolm Mason***, John Staffurth†††, EleanorWalsh, Derek J. Rosario‡‡‡, James W.F. Catto‡‡‡, David E. Neal*§§§, Jenny L.Donovan‡¶¶¶, Freddie C. Hamdy* and for the ProtecT Study Group1

*Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, Department of Cellular Pathology, North Bristol NHS Trust, Bristol Medical School, §The Bristol Randomised Trials Collaboration, University of Bristol, Bristol, Department of Pathology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, **Department of Pathology, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, ††Department of Pathology, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, ‡‡Department of Pathology, University of Leicester, Leicester, §§Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, ¶¶Department of Pathology, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, ***School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, †††Division of Cancer and Genetics, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, ‡‡‡Academic Urology Unit, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, §§§Academic Urology Group, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, and ¶¶¶National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol, UK

Abstract

Objective

To test the hypothesis that the baseline clinico‐pathological features of the men with localized prostate cancer (PCa) included in the ProtecT (Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment) trial who progressed (n = 198) at a 10‐year median follow‐up were different from those of men with stable disease (n = 1409).

Patients and Methods

We stratified the study participants at baseline according to risk of progression using clinical disease stage, pathological grade and PSA level, using Cox proportional hazard models.

Fig.1. Cumulative incidence of disease progression by International Society of Urological Pathology Grade Group (GG) and clinical stage, based on intention to treat groups. AM, active monitoring.

Results

The findings showed that 34% of participants (n = 505) had intermediate‐ or high‐risk PCa, and 66% (n = 973) had low‐risk PCa. Of 198 participants who progressed, 101 (51%) had baseline International Society of Urological Pathology Grade Group 1, 59 (30%) Grade Group 2, and 38 (19%) Grade Group 3 PCa, compared with 79%, 17% and 5%, respectively, for 1409 participants without progression (P < 0.001). In participants with progression, 38% and 62% had baseline low‐ and intermediate‐/high‐risk disease, compared with 69% and 31% of participants with stable disease (P < 0.001). Treatment received, age (65–69 vs 50–64 years), PSA level, Grade Group, clinical stage, risk group, number of positive cores, tumour length and perineural invasion were associated with time to progression (P ≤ 0.005). Men progressing after surgery (n = 19) were more likely to have a higher Grade Group and pathological stage at surgery, larger tumours, lymph node involvement and positive margins.

Conclusions

We demonstrate that one‐third of the ProtecT cohort consists of people with intermediate‐/high‐risk disease, and the outcomes data at an average of 10 years’ follow‐up are generalizable beyond men with low‐risk PCa.

Editorial: Estimating the threat posed by prostate cancer

What is the threat posed by your disease? This is how I begin all my conversations with men who have newly diagnosed prostate cancer. For men with obvious metastatic disease, the conversation is relatively simple. They have a systemic disease that requires systemic therapy with anti‐androgen medications. However, for men with localised prostate cancer the conversation is more difficult, as it is unclear when the disease will become clinically apparent. The report by Bryant et al. [1,2] in this issue of the BJUI summarising the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) trial findings has provided us with critical data concerning the natural history of screen‐detected prostate cancer and the relative impact of treatment.

The ProtecT trial data are unique, in that the study is embedded within a screening trial [2]. The patients recruited to the study reflect outcomes of men with cancer identified by PSA testing. The study population differs from men enrolled in the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group Study number 4 (SPCG‐4), who were primarily diagnosed clinically and therefore do not have the lead time associated with screening [3]. The study cohort also differs from the men enrolled in the Prostate Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT), who were generally older and therefore more often succumbed to competing medical problems during follow‐up [4]. The former group is likely to have a higher incidence of clinically significant disease; the latter group is likely to have a lower disease‐specific mortality.

While the ProtecT trial data offer a reasonable approximation of clinical practice, the ProtecT patient cohort differs from contemporary North American patients who likely have had several PSA tests prior to the one that prompted a prostate biopsy, and from contemporary UK patients who now undergo biopsy as a result of a lesion seen on MRI. The former group is likely to have a higher incidence of low‐grade disease; the latter group is more likely to have a higher incidence of high‐grade disease. Fortunately, these selection biases do not detract significantly from the fundamental messages of the ProtecT trial.

So how have Bryant et al. [1] helped us? A review of Table 1 in the paper, confirms that the Gleason Grade Group is the most powerful predictor of disease progression and long‐term survival for men with screen‐detected disease. PSA testing preferentially identifies men with low‐grade disease, primarily because low‐grade disease is much more common than high‐grade disease. Only 6% of the ProtecT cohort had Gleason Grade Group ≥3 disease, but these men accounted for 37% of the men who progressed. In comparison, 92% of the cohort had Gleason Grade Group 1 disease and only 8% of these men showed signs of progression. Among those men who underwent a radical prostatectomy, five of the seven men who developed metastases or died from their disease had Gleason Grade Group ≥3. Clinicians can now confidently counsel men considering active surveillance regarding the 10‐year estimates of disease progression based upon the biopsy Gleason Grade Group alone.

But Bryant’s team provided additional important information. They have shown that clinical stage and preoperative PSA levels also contribute important prognostic information and when men are classified by Risk Group, men with intermediate‐risk disease have over four‐times the probability of progressing within 10 years of diagnosis when compared to men in the low‐risk group. This is very relevant to men in their 50s and 60s contemplating active surveillance and should inject a note of caution for men in their 70s.

Bryant et al. [1] also showed us that other factors were less valuable in predicting long‐term outcomes. Patient age, the number of cores positive, the presence of perineural invasion, provided some evidence of increased risk, but were much less persuasive in helping men decide upon an appropriate treatment pathway.

The authors close their manuscript with the statement that baseline clinical and pathological features associated with men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer are not strong enough to reliably predict individual progression. While this may be true, I do not think they give sufficient credit to their accomplishments. Their data are the most relevant outcomes data for men with screen‐detected prostate cancer, providing them with accurate estimates of the probability of disease progression, or lack thereof, over a 10‐year horizon. The infrequent disease progression among men with Gleason Grade Group 1 was a surprise finding from the ProtecT study. Since then, our protocols and tools for conducting active surveillance have improved significantly. The 15‐year data are likely to be available in another 2–3 years; hopefully, they will remain as encouraging.

by Peter Albertsen

References

  1. Bryant R, Oxley J, Young G et al. The ProtecT trial: analysis of the patient cohort, baseline risk stratification and disease progression. BJU Int 2020; 125: 505– 14
  2. Hamdy FC, Donovan JL, Lane JA et al. 10‐year outcomes after monitoring, surgery or radiotherapy for localized prostate cancer. N Eng J Med 2016; 375: 1415– 24
  3. Bill‐Axelson A, Holmberg L, Garmo H et al. Radical prostatectomy or watchful waiting in prostate cancer – 29 year follow up. N Eng J Med 2018; 379: 2319– 29
  4. Wilt TJ, Brawer MK, Jones KM et al. Radical prostatectomy versus observation for localized prostate cancer. N Eng J Med 2012; 367: 203– 13

Residents’ podcast: the ProtecT trial

Mr Joseph Norris is a Specialty Registrar in Urology in the London Deanery. He is currently undertaking an MRC Doctoral Fellowship at UCL, under the supervision of Professor Mark Emberton. His research interest is prostate cancer that is inconspicuous on mpMRI. Joseph sits on the committee of the BURST Research Collaborative as the Treasurer and BSoT Representative.

The ProtecT trial: analysis of the patient cohort, baseline risk stratification and disease progression

Abstract

Objective

To test the hypothesis that the baseline clinico‐pathological features of the men with localized prostate cancer (PCa) included in the ProtecT (Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment) trial who progressed (n = 198) at a 10‐year median follow‐up were different from those of men with stable disease (n = 1409).

Patients and Methods

We stratified the study participants at baseline according to risk of progression using clinical disease stage, pathological grade and PSA level, using Cox proportional hazard models.

Results

The findings showed that 34% of participants (n = 505) had intermediate‐ or high‐risk PCa, and 66% (n = 973) had low‐risk PCa. Of 198 participants who progressed, 101 (51%) had baseline International Society of Urological Pathology Grade Group 1, 59 (30%) Grade Group 2, and 38 (19%) Grade Group 3 PCa, compared with 79%, 17% and 5%, respectively, for 1409 participants without progression (P < 0.001). In participants with progression, 38% and 62% had baseline low‐ and intermediate‐/high‐risk disease, compared with 69% and 31% of participants with stable disease (P < 0.001). Treatment received, age (65–69 vs 50–64 years), PSA level, Grade Group, clinical stage, risk group, number of positive cores, tumour length and perineural invasion were associated with time to progression (P ≤ 0.005). Men progressing after surgery (n = 19) were more likely to have a higher Grade Group and pathological stage at surgery, larger tumours, lymph node involvement and positive margins.

Conclusions

We demonstrate that one‐third of the ProtecT cohort consists of people with intermediate‐/high‐risk disease, and the outcomes data at an average of 10 years’ follow‐up are generalizable beyond men with low‐risk PCa.

BJUI Podcasts are available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/bju-international/id1309570262

EAU 2017 Congress Days 1&2

 
rajesh-nair≠WeAreNotAfraid. Perhaps the standout memory of EAU – London 2017. The 32nd Annual EAU Congress in London was marked with a message of defiance from colleagues and delegates from London, Great Britain, Europe and Worldwide. These were messages of solidarity, which rang through in person and on social media after an attack at Westminster.  It was quite simple. London, Europe and the World will continue regardless of these tragic events and our urological fraternity beautifully demonstrated this as days following, a record-breaking attendance of 12000 delegates from over 123 countries descended to the Excel Centre in London, UK.

 

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 EAU-2017 had surpassed many a milestone. A record breaking 5000 abstracts were submitted for poster and video presentations from over 81 countries. 1200 presentations were displayed across 300 poster and video sessions. This year showcased an expansion of the number of plenary sessions from 4 to 7 allowing for a greater choice for all delegates. The quality, breadth and expertise behind the EBUS educational courses must be commended. Finally, as always, live surgery, which has year on year, proved to be popular was broadcast from Guy’s Hospital, London. They showcased the crème de la crème of surgical talent from live procedures with over 30 surgeons involved in operating, moderating, acting as patient advocates and in organisation. I, as I am sure all delegates extend our gratitude to the patients involved during the live surgical broadcast.

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 The camaraderie was clear to see. One could not take more than ten steps without running into a colleague or friend. It was a perfect opportunity to catch up, network and build relationships. Perhaps it was Prof. Sir Bruce Keogh (NHS England’s Medical Director and Commissioner of the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI)) who described it best in his opening address: ‘meetings like this are vitally important since it is at these occasions that knowledge and professional links are developed, and at these events ideas take seed and take hold: the important ideas that will later lead to significant work and progress in medicine.”

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In addition, the opening ceremony showcased some the serious talent in urology. Awards for Prof. Paul Abrams, Prof. Per-Anders Abrahamsson, Prof. Christian Gratzke, Dr. Riccardo Autorino and Mr. Richard Turner-Warwick demonstrated their commitment, hard work and dedication to the specialty.

Day 1 began with multiple subspecialty meetings and meetings between affiliated sections. These themed discussions were stimulating and really addressed the trials and tribulations as well as successes in the delivery of urology worldwide. Day 1 also showcased a fantastic session organised by the prostate cancer prevention group. They examined the role of active surveillance in low risk prostate cancer with specific reference to data from ProtecT, ESRPC and the PLCO trials. Prof. Hamdy gave a comprehensive overview of the ProtecT study and reminded the audience that the risk of death from prostate cancer remains low (1% over ten years), and that surgery and radiotherapy although reduce cancer progression can result in bothersome side effects.  The increasing role of urine based biomarkers; microRNA, imaging and genetic testing were all discussed when redefining the cohort of patients suitable for active surveillance.

The night ended with drinks at the Healtap, a bar outside Guy’s hospital, London. This was a throwback to the past for many. Old friends and colleagues, past fellows and current urologists all gathered to reminisce about past UK experiences. Following this, a late night serious session of serious recording and video production ensued with Declan Murphy and Alastair Lamb. For those open surgical protagonists who wonder ‘what have the robots ever done for us?’ I encourage you to watch:

The opening plenary session of Day 2: ‘Sleepless nights: Would you do the same again?’ chaired by Mr. Tim O’Brien critically re-evaluates some of the management decisions for kidney cancer from a medico-legal perspective. This session was fascinating and almost akin to a TV drama. A medico-legal lawyer (Mr. Leigh) vociferously cross-examining key members of faculty and an audience watching them sweat over what would have been initially perceived an acceptable clinical decision. A key message: allow your patients to take on decisions and not shoulder the entire burden yourself and the phrase; ‘your skills are for your patient, your notes are for yourselves’ continues to resonate.

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Another EAU annual conference goes by with yet more casualties from a verbal punch up. The second session showcased a debate on robotic salvage prostatectomy between Declan Murphy and Axel Heidenreich. Perhaps the blood spilt from this joust reminded the audience that despite the rising bank of evidence favouring salvage prostatectomy, there will always remains debate when a salvage procedure is associated with increased morbidity and risk for the patient.

The ‘twitosphere’ was heavily active. The beauty of this as always is that if you were to miss sessions, lectures or abstracts, the ability to follow them on twitter in real time adds another dimension to conference attendance.

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The most re-tweeted slide was presented by Dr. Ashish Kamat, a simple yes incredibly powerful slide demonstrating the equivalence in disease specific survival between high grade T1 urothelial carcinoma of the bladder and advanced prostate cancer reminded us all of the need to be vigilant and aggressive with high grade non muscle invasive disease of the bladder.

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Day 2 brought out some of the best in abstracts, EBUS courses and updates in clinical trials.  The latest developments in urological research include: the PROstate MRI Imaging Study (PROMIS) trial results reviewed by Hashim Ahmed and futher evidence and discussion from the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) trial by Freddie Hamdy. Prof. Jim Catto gave an eloquent talk examining the role of the enhanced recovery programme in radical cystectomy.

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What a fantastic start to the meeting! As you shall see, the remainder of the meeting did not disappoint. Dr. Hendrick Borgmann will reveal all in the update of day 3 and 4.

 

Mr. Rajesh Nair

Fellow in Robotics and Uro-Oncology

The Royal Melbourne Hospital & Peter MacCallum Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

Twitter: @nairajesh

 

April Editorial: The BJUI’s clinical trials initiative

The BJUI supports clinical trials. Plain, simple, and with some new strategies.

Randomised clinical trials (RCTs) are the highest level of evidence-based medicine. We know this to be true, but we also know that RCTs are a challenge to fund, accrue patients, execute, and follow to endpoints. From a statistician’s point of view, RCTs provide unbiased estimates of the effects of different treatments. From a clinician’s point of view, RCTs provide the grandest of experiments in nature – a true test of option A vs option B. We are thrilled when one option beats the other. We can be satisfied if the options are equivalent, at least knowing the matter is settled and move on to the next question. Either way, the story lines can be rich with ongoing debate, drama, and analysis: were the cohorts truly equivalent? Was the study population generalisable? Were the treatments contemporary? Were there unintended harms/toxicities?

Allow us to illustrate some examples of what we propose to our readers. In 2003, Thompson et al. [1] published the famous Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial in the New England Journal of Medicine: ‘The influence of finasteride on the development of prostate cancer’. This landmark study has been cited 2541 times, according to Google Scholar. Looking further at impact, one can go to the www.swog.org site and query the protocol ‘SWOG-9217’ and see that over 150 publications have been produced using this dataset (16 in 2016!). Several publications pre-dated the primary endpoint paper and discussed trial design, the dilemma of chemoprevention, and updates to trial progress. Post primary endpoint, publications have looked at multiple strategies – costs, the high-grade findings, longer-term follow-up, biopsy findings from the placebo arm, etc. Just last year, the UK made its mark on the prostate cancer world with the landmark Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) study [2]. Again, we see the primary endpoint paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, but secondary endpoint papers, such as the quality-of-life outcomes are in the BJUI [3], and a mortality outcome analysis for trial screen failures in European Urology [4].

The BJUI can support clinical trial efforts through multiple pathways. Certainly, we would love to receive a primary endpoint paper from an important RCT in urology. We can also have impact by featuring important secondary endpoint papers, trial design papers (preferably ones that read like a good review article, with the trial proposed as the ‘answer’ to the dilemma), as well as smaller/early phase I–II trials that are stand-alone pieces of key knowledge. Figure 1 shows a possible flow chart of a RCT with each box representing possible publication points. In addition to content in the BJUI, our webpage Blogs section has a ‘rapid response team’ to start immediate dialogue on important RCTs published in other journals. For example with the recent Yaxley et al. [5] trial in the Lancet, our blogs section, led by Declan Murphy, had over 10 000 views and over 50 follow-up comments. So clearly, our readers care about RCTs.

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Figure 1. A possible flow chart of a randomised clinical trial (RCT) with each box representing possible publication points. QOL, quality of life; f/u, follow-up.

Finally, the BJUI can help with RCTs in two more ways. For the reader, we will highlight RCT-related papers in their native sections (i.e. oncology, functional, education) with a special ‘Trials’ headline, and will invite experts to comment on the significance of the study. For reviewers and authors, we will be critical on RCT design, such that flaws are identified, and papers not given inflated significance. It is frustrating to receive papers that lack adequate reporting on what researchers did, RCT-related papers submitted to the BJUI frequently fail to adhere to the 2010 Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) guidance for reporting RCTs, which potentially leads to major revisions, if not outright rejection. The CONSORT requirements are on our author submission guidelines, but ideally these are read and adhered to in advance, as many are not possible to correct after the fact. Recently, we have also added that all RCTs must be registered (i.e. clinicaltrials.gov or similar) before the first patient is enrolled.

John W. Davis, Associate Editor, Urological Oncology* and
Graeme MacLennan, Consulting Editor, Statistics and Trials

*MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA and University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK


References

How to Cite this article

Davis, J. W. and MacLennan, G. (2017), The BJUI‘s clinical trials initiative. BJU International, 119: 503. doi: 10.1111/bju.13837

 

Video: PROMs in the ProtecT trial of PCa treatments

Patient-reported outcomes in the ProtecT randomized trial of clinically localized prostate cancer treatments: study design, and baseline urinary, bowel and sexual function and quality of life

Athene Lane*,, Chris Metcalfe*,, Grace J. Young*,, Tim J. Peters,§, Jane Blazeby*Kerry N. L. Avery*, Daniel Dedman, Liz Down*, Malcolm D. Mason**, David E. Neal††Freddie C. Hamdy†† and Jenny L. Donovan*,§ for the ProtecT Study group

 

*School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, Bristol Randomised Trials Collaboration, University of Bristol, Bristol, School of Clinical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, §Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West, United Hospitals Bristol, Bristol, Clinical Practice Research Datalink Group, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, London, **School of Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, and ††Nufeld Department of Surgery, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Objectives

To present the baseline patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) in the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment (ProtecT) randomized trial comparing active monitoring, radical prostatectomy and external-beam conformal radiotherapy for localized prostate cancer and to compare results with other populations.

Materials and Methods

A total of 1643 randomized men, aged 50–69 years and diagnosed with clinically localized disease identified by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, in nine UK cities in the period 1999–2009 were included. Validated PROMs for disease-specific (urinary, bowel and sexual function) and condition-specific impact on quality of life (Expanded Prostate Index Composite [EPIC], 2005 onwards; International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire-Urinary Incontinence [ICIQ-UI], 2001 onwards; the International Continence Society short-form male survey [ICSmaleSF]; anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale [HADS]), generic mental and physical health (12-item short-form health survey [SF-12]; EuroQol quality-of-life survey, the EQ-5D-3L) were assessed at prostate biopsy clinics before randomization. Descriptive statistics are presented by treatment allocation and by men’s age at biopsy and PSA testing time points for selected measures.

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Results

A total of 1438 participants completed biopsy questionnaires (88%) and 77–88% of these were analysed for individual PROMs. Fewer than 1% of participants were using pads daily (5/754). Storage lower urinary tract symptoms were frequent (e.g. nocturia 22%, 312/1423). Bowel symptoms were rare, except for loose stools (16%, 118/754). One third of participants reported erectile dysfunction (241/735) and for 16% (118/731) this was a moderate or large problem. Depression was infrequent (80/1399, 6%) but 20% of participants (278/1403) reported anxiety. Sexual function and bother were markedly worse in older men (65–70 years), whilst urinary bother and physical health were somewhat worse than in younger men (49–54 years, all P < 0.001). Bowel health, urinary function and depression were unaltered by age, whilst mental health and anxiety were better in older men (P < 0.001). Only minor differences existed in mental or physical health, anxiety and depression between PSA testing and biopsy assessments.

Conclusion

The ProtecT trial baseline PROMs response rates were high. Symptom frequencies and generic quality of life were similar to those observed in populations screened for prostate cancer and control subjects without cancer.

In search of the ROSETTA stone (again)?

We are having an amazing year of scientific discovery in our specialty. 2016 has already seen the results of the only randomised trial comparing open versus robotic radical prostatectomy from Australia and the ProtecT trial from UK discussed intensively on [email protected] The PROMIS of MRI is expected to change the practice of prostate biopsies in response to a raised PSA. The teams completing these trials deserve our heartiest congratulations as it is well known how difficult randomised trials in surgery are to initiate and complete.

As if this was not enough, this month the randomised controlled trial comparing Botox (Onabotulinum toxin A) to Interstim (sacral neuromodulation) in patients with refractory overactive bladder has been reported in JAMA. It is otherwise known as the ROSETTA study (Refractory Overactive Bladder:  Sacral NEuromodulation v. BoTulinum Toxin Assessment).

This is an example of what collaboration between individuals and teams within a pelvic floor group can achieve. Cindy Amundsen, the lead author, presented the trial results at the #AUA16 late breaking abstract session in San Diego.

The CONSORT diagram is shown here
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The primary outcome measure showing Botox winning over Interstim (narrowly) in reducing urgency urinary incontinence is demonstrated in this diagram.
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The summary results are shown here
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So what would you do for your patient with refractory overactive bladder who has failed Anticholinergics and Mirabegron?

I have spent the last week thinking about the trial results carefully and was asked exactly this question at the International Endourology Forum in China. There are a number of important aspects to consider. The dose of Botox used in the trial was 200 units while the licensed dose is 100 units for overactive bladder of non-neurogenic origin. We know that one size does not fit all and indeed some patients failing 100 units need higher doses of Botox. It remains unknown as to what would have happened if 100 units of Botox was compared to Interstim as the authors are quite guarded about their own conclusions about the benefits.

The side effects also need to be carefully discussed with the patient. The UTI rate in the Botox group is about three times that of the Interstim group. Most patients may accept a period of oral antibiotics to counter this. The risk of CISC dropped from 8% at 1 month to 2% at 6 months in the Botox group. This is lower than previously reported in Phase lll studies. The need for revision or removal in the Interstim patients was around 3% – small but not to be ignored.

Punchline
If I was the patient in question, I would have Botox initially, preserving Interstim for later. It is less invasive and can be repeated roughly once a year if needed. Call me “lilly livered” but I do not like the idea of having a little box, however tiny, inside my bum and occasionally having to sit on it! I look forward to the smarter new generation of minimally invasive or even non-invasive nerve stimulators. But then it would need another randomised trial, many years of unanswered questions, perhaps even wastage of a lot of grant money…………..yawn!!

In the meantime, I will take my chances with Botox and counsel my patients accordingly. Unlike the famous ROSETTA stone, the key to understanding the mystery behind hieroglyphs and the controversy as to whether it should at all be in the British museum, I fail to see any such controversy with this nice trial in JAMA.

My thoughts and message are clear. Are yours?

 

The optimal treatment of patients with localized prostate cancer: the debate rages on

The widely anticipated results of the ProtecT study have now been published. Unfortunately, the results do little to advance our understanding as to whether surgery or radiation provides better outcomes.

 

In summary

The study followed oncologic and functional outcomes of 545 patients randomized to active monitoring (surveillance), 553 to radical prostatectomy, and 545 to radiotherapy. With a median follow-up of 10 years, the authors report no significant differences in prostate cancer specific (p=0.48) or overall survival (p=0.87) among the three treatment groups. They did demonstrate an increase in disease progression and metastasis among men managed with surveillance.

In an accompanying manuscript, the authors examined patient reported outcome measures out to 6 years following treatment. The authors report worse urinary continence and erectile function following surgery and worse voiding symptoms and bowel function following radiotherapy.

 

What do we take from this?

The investigators and participating patients should be congratulated for successfully completing this study. Numerous authors have documented their failure to adequately accrue to randomized studies of surgery versus radiotherapy in localized prostate cancer (including MRC PR06 and SPIRIT). The failure of these trials, among others, prompted Dr. Wilt to ask “Can randomized treatment trials in early stage prostate cancer be completed?” These authors have unequivocally proven that the answer is “yes”.

However, there are many caveats in applying these results to our patients:

 

(1) Study power

The study was clearly underpowered to evaluate the primary outcome of prostate-cancer specific mortality.  Drs. Roobol and Bokhorst eloquently described important limitations of the ProtecT study. The authors designed the study assuming prostate cancer mortality of 15% at a median follow-up of 10 years. This was later adjusted downwards to 10% based on updated UK data. In the end, rates were closer to 1%. The conclusions of the primary analysis are based on a total of 17 (17!!) deaths.

 

(2) Study cohort – enriched with low risk disease

Among the randomized patients, the median PSA was 4.6 ng/mL, 76% had clinical stage T1c disease, and 77% had Gleason score 6 disease. These patients would almost certainly be considered most suitable for active surveillance, rather than active therapy, if seen in clinic today. Clinically meaningful decisions between surgery and radiotherapy are in the realm of treatment of intermediate and high-risk localized prostate cancer and these comprise a small group in this study.  Based on this baseline distribution, it will be unlikely that any significant differences will be found in future follow-up studies.

 

(3) Outcomes for active surveillance

Perhaps the most notable findings of this study involve the significantly higher rates of progression, metastasis and prostate cancer specific mortality for patients treated on the surveillance protocol as compared to those treated actively, though statistical significance was not reached for PCSM. The manuscript does not provide further details regarding the pathologic characteristics of these patients. Relevantly, what was the Gleason score for these patients? This is of particularly importance as many surveillance proponents are advocating an expanding role of AS.

 

(4) Treatments administered

RCTs typically require significant periods of accrual, follow-up and analysis. As a result, they may be out of date prior to completion. This is certainly true of the ProtecT study. This most prominently affects patients allocated to radiotherapy. In the study protocol, patients received 3D conformal radiotherapy at 74 Gy, not the IMRT which has now become widely used. Thus, proponents of radiotherapy will likely to discount any findings which do not favour radiotherapy.

In addition, the current day relevance of the surgical treatment provided is questionable. First, the vast majority of patients in the surgical arm underwent open RP. More concerning is the quality of surgery provided: 93 patients (24%) of the cohort had positive surgical margins. In contemporary series, the average rate is under 15% with centers of excellence approaching 5%. While PSM rates clearly affect oncologic outcomes, they likely are also a surrogate of surgical quality which may affect functional outcomes.

 

 (5) Comparison of active treatments

In the accompanying editorial, Dr. D’Amico comments on a “trend favouring radiation and ADT over surgery” and suggests that “one may consider radiation and ADT as a preferred option”. The basis for this conjecture is 5 deaths in the surgery group and 4 in the radiotherapy group, hardly a convincing sample. In contrast to these data, there was a higher number of patients with metastasis among those treated with radiotherapy (16 vs 13). These discordant results would certainly suggest that any preference for radiotherapy is premature. Indeed, with additional follow-up one would expect the patients with metastasis to die of prostate cancer, thus favouring those treated surgically.

On a methodological note, while the inclusion of active surveillance is a strength of the study, it poses analytic difficulties. The primary analysis assesses a null hypothesis assuming equality across all study interventions. Thus, as this was non-significant, pairwise testing of surgery and radiotherapy, and each with surveillance, is inappropriate and conclusions on these comparisons should not be drawn.

 

(6) Functional outcomes and treatment-related complications

Most clinicians are well aware that many complications other than erectile function and urinary incontinence may affect that life trajectory of patients following prostate cancer treatments. ProtecT offers the opportunity to examine the risks of secondary malignancy, repeat urologic and gastrointestinal interventions, surgeries and hospitalizations following treatment. However, these are not currently included in the published data.

Further, the PCOS studies have clearly shown that differences in patient reported urinary, sexual and bowel function change over time with convergence after long term follow-up (15 years). With ongoing maturity, it will be interesting to see if a similar pattern emerges in ProtecT.

 

In conclusion

The ProtecT study may raise more questions than it answers. Among a low risk group of patients, it has shown that active treatment of PSA-detected prostate cancer can reduce the progression to metastatic disease. Assessment of prostate cancer specific and overall mortality, as well as the comparative efficacy of surgery and radiotherapy, is not possible due to power limitations.

Will you be changing you patient counselling based on these results?

 

cw-head-shot-smallChristopher Wallis, MD
Resident,
Division of Urology,
Department of Surgery,
University of Toronto
Doctoral Student in Clinical Epidemiology and Health Care Research, Institute of Health Policy, Management & Evaluation
University of Toronto
nam_drrobert_portrait-2010-small

 

 

 

 

 

 


Robert Nam
, MD MSc FRCSC
Ajmera Family Chair in Urologic Oncology
Professor,
Division of Urology,
Department of Surgery
University of Toronto
Head, Genitourinary Cancer Site
Odette Cancer Centre
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

 

 

 

 

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