Tag Archive for: radical prostatectomy


Editorial: Conversion to negative surgical margin after intraoperative frozen section – (un)necessary effort and relevance in 2019?

The assessment and impact of positive surgical margins (PSMs) at the time of radical prostatectomy (RP) have been discussed for many decades. The determination and reporting should be performed in a standardised fashion according to the International Society of Urological Pathology [1]. The SM is considered positive if tumour cells touch the inked surface of the RP specimen. However, reasons for difficulty in truly differentiating between negative SMs (NSMs) and PSMs include iatrogenic disruption of the prostatic capsule, penetration of ink into small cracks on the outside, or cases in which prostate cancer cells are very close to, but not definitely touching, the inked margins.

A systematic review by Yossepowitch et al. [2] found a contemporary PSM rate of 15% (range 6.5–32%), which increases with extracapsular extension. In addition, the likelihood of PSM is strongly influenced by surgeon experience, independent of the surgical technique. Although PSM is considered an adverse pathological outcome and associated with an increased risk of biochemical recurrence (BCR), the impact on long‐term survival and actual prognostic value remains debatable. The association with other endpoints, such as prostate‐cancer specific mortality and overall survival, is controversial and may be primarily influenced by other risk factors, such as preoperative PSA level, Gleason score, and pathological T‐stage [2].

The role of intraoperative frozen section analysis in order to reduce the PSM rate continues to evolve. In a study by von Bodman et al. [3], 92.3% of patients with a PSM on frozen‐section analysis could ultimately be converted to a NSM. Similar findings were reported by Schlomm et al. [4] in 5392 patients using the intraoperative neurovascular structure‐adjacent frozen section examination (NeuroSAFE) technique, PSMs were detected in 25%, leading to re‐resection and conversion to definitive NSMs in 86% of these patients. In the setting of increasing experience with intraoperative frozen section analysis, a false‐positive SM status was found in only 48 patients (3.3%).

The study by Pak et al. [5], published in this issue of the BJUI, reported that specimens with initial PSMs were converted to NSMs upon permanent specimen evaluation (NCSM) in 4.9% of 2013 men undergoing RP. In this subgroup, the 5‐year BCR‐free survival (BCRFS) rates did not differ from those observed in National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) low‐ and intermediate‐risk patients with an initially NSM. However, the benefit of conversion from an initial PSM to final NSM was not apparent in high‐risk patients, as the authors found a significantly lower rate of BCRFS amongst this NCSM group. In multivariate analysis, NCSM status was independently associated (hazard ratio 0.624, P = 0.033) with BCR but not distant metastasis. These findings corroborate the findings of the Schlomm et al. [4] study, in which the BCRFS rates of propensity score‐based matched patients with conversion to NSMs did not differ significantly from patients with primarily NSMs.

What is the current role of intraoperative frozen section analysis during RP? How important is it to achieve NSMs in contemporary practice? In whom and how should the assessment be performed? Although it is clearly desirable to completely remove the entire tumour at the time of surgery, and NSMs are a surrogate marker of adequate local excision, the devil is in the details. First, in this study [5], the authors only assessed SMs at the bladder neck and apex. Although the apex is one of the most frequent locations for PSMs, other and/or multiple sites of PSMs are possible and could have been missed. Alternatively, the NeuroSAFE method is able to assess the entire laterorectal circumference albeit with the trade‐off of more extensive pathological involvement and assessment. Second, intraoperative frozen section analysis, and manoeuvers for NCSM, may ultimately be necessary and beneficial in only a small number of patients currently undergoing RP. An increasing proportion of men harbour more aggressive, higher‐risk disease in whom PSMs may have no impact on oncological outcomes or treatment decisions. In these men, long‐term cancer outcomes are probably more related to risks of unsuspected metastatic disease rather than residual, microscopic cancer within the prostatic fossa. As suggested in this study [5], an initial PSM in high‐risk men, independent of ultimate NCSM, may be a surrogate for non‐localised disease and poorer outcomes; PSMs were found in 53% of men with pT3b. In low‐risk men, the issues are whether active surveillance is a more appropriate initial management strategy and that routine intraoperative frozen section analysis may not be worthwhile with a PSM rate of only 10%. How does this alter the decision for adjuvant therapy? Adjuvant radiotherapy is probably under‐utilised in men with PSMs after RP (~11%), and NCSM may spare men from unnecessary treatment, particularly with lower‐risk disease [6]. However, men with PSMs and additional adverse pathological features, such as extraprostatic extension or seminal vesicle invasion, should probably receive adjuvant therapy, primarily driven by T stage.

The incremental value and potential clinical benefit of intraoperative frozen section analysis to achieve NSMs remain to be determined. Although one would suspect that PSM leading to excision of additional tissue could lead to worse functional outcomes, the study from Mirmilstein et al. [7] is reassuring. Despite higher Gleason score and pT stage in those undergoing the NeuroSAFE approach, the PSM rate was lower in this group (9.2%) compared with those undergoing standard intraoperative nerve‐sparing while leading to greater bilateral nerve preservation, higher potency rates at 12 months, and pad‐free continence.

In the future, other methods may guide surgical decision‐making and may eventually alter PSM rate including preoperative MRI of the prostate to evaluate extracapsular extension, genomic risk scores, or real‐time, near‐infrared fluorescent surgical guidance with prostate‐specific membrane antigen ligands [8]. However, one should not forget that outcomes are not solely based on the SM status. Various pathological and clinical factors and patients’ comorbidities and preference should be taken into consideration in the surgical management and that evaluation of validated oncological and functional outcomes is critical.

by Annika Herlemann and Maxwell Meng


  1. Tan, PHCheng, LSrigley, JR et al. International Society of Urological Pathology (ISUP) Consensus Conference on Handling and Staging of Radical Prostatectomy Specimens. Working group 5: surgical margins. Mod Pathol 20112448– 57
  2. Yossepowitch, OBriganti, AEastham, JA et al. Positive surgical margins after radical prostatectomy: a systematic review and contemporary update. Eur Urol 201465303– 13
  3. Bodman, CBrock, MRoghmann, F et al. Intraoperative frozen section of the prostate decreases positive margin rate while ensuring nerve sparing procedure during radical prostatectomy. J Urol 2013190515– 20
  4. Schlomm, TTennstedt, PHuxhold, C et al. Neurovascular structure‐adjacent frozen‐section examination (NeuroSAFE) increases nerve‐sparing frequency and reduces positive surgical margins in open and robot‐assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: experience after 11,069 consecutive patients. Eur Urol 201262333– 40
  5. Pak, SPark, SKim, MGo, HCho, YMAhn, HThe impact on oncological outcomes after radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer of converting soft tissue margins at the apex and bladder neck from tumour‐positive to ‐negative. BJU Int 2019123811– 7
  6. Ghabili, KNguyen, KHsiang, W et al. National trends in the management of patients with positive surgical margins at the time of radical prostatectomy. J Clin Oncol 201836 (Suppl.)111
  7. Mirmilstein, GRai, BPGbolahan, O et al. The neurovascular structure‐adjacent frozen‐section examination (NeuroSAFE) approach to nerve sparing in robot‐assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy in a British setting – a prospective observational comparative study. BJU Int 2018;121854– 62
  8. Neuman, BPEifler, JBCastanares, M et al. Real‐time, near‐infrared fluorescence imaging with an optimized dye/light source/camera combination for surgical guidance of prostate cancer. Clin Cancer Res 201521771– 80


Video: Prostatic capsular incision during RP has important oncological implications. A systematic review and meta‐analysis

Prostatic capsular incision during radical prostatectomy has important oncological implications. A systematic review and meta‐analysis



Capsular Incision (CapI) is an iatrogenic breach of the prostatic capsule during radical prostatectomy that can cause positive surgical margins (PSM) in organ‐confined (pT2) prostate cancer (PCa), or the retention of benign prostatic tissue. We systematically interrogated the literature in order to clarify the definition of CapI, and the implications of this event for rates of PSM and biochemical recurrence (BCR).


A literature search was conducted according to PRISMA criteria using the search terms ‘CapI’ AND ‘prostatectomy’ and variations of each. 18 studies were eligible for inclusion.


A total of 51,057 radical prostatectomy specimens were included. The incidence of CapI ranged from 1.3‐54.3%. CapI definitions varied, and included a breach of the prostatic capsule “exposing both benign or malignant PCa cells”, “malignant tissue only”, or “benign tissue only”. The incidence of PSM due to CapI ranged from 2.8 – 71.7%. Our meta‐analysis results found that when CapI was defined as “exposing malignant tissue only in organ‐confined prostate cancer” there was an increased risk of BCR compared to patients with pT2 disease and no CapI (RR 3.53, 95%CI 2.82‐4.41; p < 0.00001).


The absolute impact of CapI on oncological outcomes is currently unclear due to inconsistent definitions. However, the data implies an association between CapI and PSM and BCR. Reporting of possible areas of CapI on the operation note, or marking areas of concern on the specimen, are critical to assist CapI recognition by the pathologist.


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IP2 – ATLANTA is launched!

IP2 – ATLANTA is launched! ATLANTA is a phase II randomised controlled trial that will explore sequential multi-modal treatment using systemic therapy, local physical cytoreduction and metastasis directed therapy in men with newly diagnosed metastatic prostate cancer against a comparator of standard of care alone.

All men with new histologically diagnosed hormone sensitive metastatic prostate cancer, within three months of commencing androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), and of performance status 0 to 2 are eligible.  No upper limit on metastatic burden will apply, although men must be fit to undergo all trial interventions at point of randomisation.

Men will be randomised to: Control (Standard of Care) OR Intervention 1 (Minimally Invasive Ablative Therapy [MIAT] +/- pelvic lymph node dissection [PLND]) OR Intervention 2 (Local Radiotherapy +/- Lymph Nodes OR Radical Prostatectomy +/- PLND). Randomisation stratified by metastatic burden (CHAARTED definition), intent to treat pelvic lymph nodes, intent to treat metastasis and intent to commence chemotherapy.

Systemic therapy in all arms includes ADT +/- Docetaxel. Radical prostatectomy will be with or without PLND. Local radiotherapy will be 60Gy/20Fr OR 74-78Gy in 2Gy per fraction over a minimum of 27 days, with or without simultaneous nodal radiotherapy. MIAT will be cryotherapy or focal HIFU. Men in both intervention arms will be eligible for metastasis directed therapy in the form of stereotactic ablative radiation (SABR) or surgery.

Men will be recruited over a two year period and followed up for a minimum of two years. Primary outcome will be progression free survival (PFS). ATLANTA is commencing in 17 UK trial centres with a target recruitment of 80 patients in the internal pilot, rising to 918 patients in full phase across 30 UK trial centres from November 2019.

ATLANTA is entirely charity funded (Wellcome Trust) and available on the NIHR CRN portfolio. Follow-up trial visits are not in excess of routine practice and extra burden is minimal. If you would like to join the main phase of ATLANTA as a site, please contact Mr Martin J. Connor ([email protected]) www.imperialprostate.org.uk/ATLANTA.

Prof. Hashim U. Ahmed (ATLANTA PI & CI),

Mr. Martin J. Connor (ATLANTA Doctoral Clinical Research Fellow)

Mr. Taimur T. Shah (Urology SpR & Research Fellow)


ATLANTA Surgeons Board: Mr Mathias Winkler, Mr Tim Dudderidge, Prof. Chris Eden, Mr Paul Cathcart, Prof. Naeem Soomro, Mr Adel Makar

ATLANTA Radiotherapy Board: Prof. John Staffurth, Dr. Alison Falconer, Dr. Stephen Mangar, Dr Olivia Naismith, RTTQA team

ATLANTA MIAT Board: Prof. Hashim U. Ahmed, Mr Stuart McCracken, Mr Raj Nigam, Mr Tim Dudderidge, Prof Iqbal Shergill

ATLANTA SABR Board: Dr Vincent Khoo, RTTQA team

ATLANTA Medical Oncologists: Dr. Naveed Sarwar, Dr Michael Gonzalez

ATLANTA Trial Sites: Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, The Royal Marsden Hospital, Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, Royal Surrey County (Guildford) Hospital, University Hospital Southampton, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre & Arrowe Park Hospital, Newcastle Freeman Hospital, King’s Lynn (Cambridge), Norfolk & Norwich (Cambridge), Sunderland Royal Hospital, Frimley Park Hospital, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Wrexham Park Hospital, West Middlesex University Hospital, Royal United Hospital Bath, Betsi Calderwar Health Board, Lister Hospital, Hampshire (Basingstoke) Hospitals, University Hospital Coventry, Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

Trial Sponsor: Imperial College London

Trial Funder: Wellcome Trust

ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03763253

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Article of the month: Mortality after radical prostatectomy in a matched contemporary cohort in Sweden compared to the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group 4 study

Every month, the Editor-in-Chief selects an Article of the Month 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 editorial written by a prominent member of the urological community. These are 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.


Mortality after radical prostatectomy in a matched contemporary cohort in Sweden compared to the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group 4 (SPCG‐4) study

Walter Cazzaniga*†‡, Hans Garmo§¶, David Robinson**, Lars Holmberg, Anna Bill-Axelson and Pär Stattin
*Division of Experimental Oncology/Unit of Urology URI, IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy, Department of Surgical Sciences, Uppsala University, §Regional Cancer Centre Uppsala Örebro, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden, Division of Cancer Studies, Cancer Epidemiology Group, King’s College London, London, UK, and **Department of Urology, Ryhov Hospital, Jönköping, Sweden


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To investigate if results in terms of absolute risk in mature randomised trials are relevant for contemporary decision‐making. To do so, we compared the outcome for men in the radical prostatectomy (RP) arm of the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group Study number 4 (SPCG‐4) randomised trial with matched men treated in a contemporary era before and after compensation for the grade migration and grade inflation that have occurred since the 1980s.

Patients and Methods

A propensity score‐matched analysis of prostate cancer mortality and all‐cause mortality in the SPCG‐4 and matched men in the National Prostate Cancer Register (NPCR) of Sweden treated in 1998–2006 was conducted. Cumulative incidence of prostate cancer mortality and all‐cause mortality was calculated. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for a matching on original Gleason Grade Groups (GGG) and second, matching with GGG increased one unit for men in the NPCR.

Figure 1: Cumulative incidence of prostate cancer mortality (PCM) and all‐cause mortality (ACM) in the SPCG‐4 and the NPCR of Sweden. FU, follow‐up after date of diagnosis or primary treatment. A and B based on original GGG. C and D based on upgraded GGG classification in the NPCR with an increase of one grade in GGG.


Matched men in the NPCR treated in 2005–2006 had half the risk of prostate cancer mortality compared to men in the SPCG‐4 (HR 0.46, 95% CI 0.19–1.14). In analysis of men matched on an upgraded GGG in the NPCR, this difference was mitigated (HR 0.73, 95% CI 0.36–1.47).


Outcomes after RP for men in the SPCG‐4 cannot be directly applied to men in the current era, mainly due to grade inflation and grade migration. However, by compensating for changes in grading, similar outcomes after RP were seen in the SPCG‐4 and NPCR. In order to compare historical trials with current treatments, data on temporal changes in detection, diagnostics, and treatment have to be accounted for.

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Editorial: Are historical studies relevant in the setting of grade migration?

While randomized controlled trials are the ‘gold standard’ for comparative effectiveness research, it is important that they be taken in context of their limitations. This is especially true in surgical trials for prostate cancer. For one, factors such as blinding and allocation concealment are often impossible in surgery, and surgeon skill may have a large impact [1]. What is more, it can take over a decade before interventions yield detectable differences in prostate cancer survival. Consequently, shifts in diagnosis and management may make historical clinical trial findings less useful for contemporary patients. For example, the landmark Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group Study number 4 (SPCG‐4) showed a survival benefit for men treated with radical prostatectomy rather than observation during the 1989–1999 time period [2] but management in the study differed from contemporary practice as, in the 1990s, strict ‘active surveillance’ protocols did not exist.

In addition to shifts in management, men diagnosed with prostate cancer today differ from those diagnosed in previous decades. This was shown by Dalela et al. [3] who compared registry‐based data from the USA with data on patients enrolled in the Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation (PIVOT) trial, and found significant differences between the two cohorts.

In a similar vein, Cazzaniga et al. [4] designed an elegant study to assess the generalizability of the SPCG‐4 to contemporary cohorts of men with prostate cancer. They focused on histological grading and compared the natural history of men in the SPCG‐4 study to men in similar grade categories diagnosed approximately one decade later in Sweden.

The contemporary cohort was made up of men with localized prostate cancer drawn from the Swedish National Prostate Cancer Register (NPCR). Men in the NPCR diagnosed in 2005–2006 had lower prostate cancer‐specific and all‐cause mortality compared to men with similar grade cancer in the SPCG‐4 (hazard ratios 0.46, 95% CI 0.19–1.14, and 0.66, 95% CI 0.46–0.95, respectively). While some of the observed differences in survival may have been attributable to improved treatments, Cazzaniga et al. hypothesized that grade migration was to blame.

As expected, the authors found a shift in Gleason grading, with a decrease in Gleason Grade Group (GGG) 1 disease, corresponding to a historical score of Gleason 3 + 3 = 6, and a concurrent increase in GGG2 and GGG3 disease, corresponding to historical scores of 3 + 4 = 7 and 4 + 3 = 7, respectively. Importantly, these differences in prostate cancer‐specific and all‐cause mortality were mitigated after compensating for grade migration by increasing GGG by one for the NPCR group; in other words, men in the SPCG‐4 treated in the 1990s had similar prostate cancer‐specific and all‐cause mortality to men in a later period with a one‐unit higher GGG.

Grade migration has been a gradual process, which was hastened by the major 2005 International Society of Urological Pathology revision that recategorized some Gleason patterns from 3 to 4. Changes in 2014 further refined these, and the concept of grade groups was introduced by Epstein two years later. Older cases of Gleason score 6 cancer include histological patterns, such as cribriform and poorly formed glands, which today would be considered Gleason pattern 4.

Grade migration was also demonstrated by Danneman et al. [5] who analysed the Gleason scoring of prostate biopsies from the NPCR in Sweden for the period 1998–2011. There was an increasing incidence of low‐risk cancer (cT1 20% in 1998 to 51% in 2011) and a concurrent decrease in high‐risk cancers (cT3 29% to 16%), reflecting earlier detection. With earlier diagnosis from screening, one would expect a shift towards lower grades at diagnosis, but they found the opposite. Among low‐risk tumours (stage cT1 and PSA 4–10 ng/mL) the proportion of Gleason score 7–10 increased from 16% to 40%. Among high‐risk tumours (stage cT3 and PSA 20–50 ng/mL) the proportion of Gleason 7–10 increased from 65% to 94%.

Gleason score reclassification was also addressed by Albertsen et al. [6], who had prostate biopsy slides for the period 1990 to 1992 re‐reviewed by an experienced pathologist in 2002–2004. They found an upward shift in Gleason grading, with 55% of the samples upgraded, 14% downgraded, and 31% unchanged. Comparing matched cohorts of historical vs contemporary patients with prostate cancer, one might erroneously infer better survival. This illusory change in prognosis is known as the ‘Will Rogers phenomenon’.

While randomized trials such as the SPCG‐4 represent one of the highest levels of clinical evidence, it is important to keep in mind that these trials have limitations. Given the interval changes in grading criteria for prostatic adenocarcinoma, predicting clinical outcomes based on historical cohorts is rarely as simple as it may seem. While the fundamental conclusions of the SPGC‐4 remain valid, the finding that Gleason grade did not modify the effect of prostatectomy on survival is now less certain. Physicians should therefore use caution when inferring prognosis based on those results.

Cazzaniga et al. should be congratulated for this important work which will help physicians better counsel patients making decisions based on trials like the SPCG‐4.


  1. Trinh QD, Cole AP, Dasgupta P. Weighing the evidence from surgical trials. BJU Int 2017; 119: 659–60
  2. Bill‐Axelson A, Holmberg L, Ruutu M et al. Radical prostatectomy versus watchful waiting in early prostate cancer. N Engl J Med 2011; 364: 1708–17
  3. Dalela D, Karabon P, Sammon J et al. Generalizability of the Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation Trial (PIVOT) results to contemporary North American men with prostate cancer. Eur Urol 2017; 71: 511–4
  4. Cazzaniga W, Garmo H, Robinson D, Holmberg L, Bill‐Axelson A, Stattin P. Mortality after radical prostatectomy in a matched contemporary cohort in Sweden compared to the Scandinavian Prostate Cancer Group 4 (SPCG‐4) study. BJU Int 2019; 123: 421–8
  5. Danneman D, Drevin L, Robinson D, Stattin P, Egevad LJ. Gleason inflation 1998–2011: a registry study of 97,168 men. BJU Int 2015; 115: 248–55
  6. Albertsen PC, Hanley JA, Barrows GH et al. Prostate cancer and the Will Rogers phenomenon. J Natl Cancer Inst 2005; 97: 1248–53C


Article of the week: Adjuvant radiation with androgen‐deprivation therapy for men with lymph node metastases after radical prostatectomy

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 the article itself, there is an editorial written by a prominent member of the urological community. These are 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.

Adjuvant radiation with androgen‐deprivation therapy for men with lymph node metastases after radical prostatectomy: identifying men who benefit

Mohit Gupta*, Hiten D. Patel*, Zeyad R. Schwen*, Phuoc T. Tran*† and Alan W. Partin*


*Department of Urology, James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, and Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences and Oncology, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD, USA


Read the full article



To perform a comparative analysis of three current management strategies for patients with lymph node metastases (LNM; pN1) following radical prostatectomy (RP): observation, androgen‐deprivation therapy (ADT), and external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) + ADT.

Patients and Methods

Patients with LNM after RP were identified using the National Cancer Database (2004–2013). Exclusion criteria included any use of radiation therapy or ADT before RP, clinical M1 disease, or incomplete follow‐up data. Patients were categorised according to postoperative management strategy. The primary outcome was overall survival (OS). Kaplan–Meier curves and adjusted multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were employed. Sub‐analyses further evaluated patient risk stratification and time to receipt of adjuvant therapy.


A total of 8 074 patients met the inclusion criteria. Postoperatively, 4 489 (55.6%) received observation, 2 065 (25.6%) ADT, and 1 520 (18.8%) ADT + EBRT. The mean (median; interquartile range) follow‐up was 52.3 (48.0; 28.5–73.5) months. Patients receiving ADT or ADT + EBRT had higher pathological Gleason scores, T‐stage, positive surgical margin rates, and nodal burden. Adjusted multivariable Cox models showed improved OS for ADT + EBRT vs observation (hazard ratio [HR] 0.77, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.64–0.94; P = 0.008) and vs ADT (HR 0.76, 95% CI: 0.63–0.93; P = 0.007). There was no difference in OS for ADT vs observation (HR 1.01, 95% CI: 0.87–1.18; P = 0.88). Findings were similar when restricting adjuvant cohorts for timing of adjuvant therapy. There was no difference in OS between groups for up to 2 549 (31.6%) patients lacking any of the following adverse features: ≥pT3b disease, Gleason score ≥9, three or more positive nodes, or positive surgical margin.


For patients with LNM after RP, the use of adjuvant ADT + EBRT improved OS in the majority of patients, especially those with adverse pathological features. Conversely, adjuvant therapy did not confer significant OS benefit in up to 30% of patients without high‐risk features, who may be managed with observation and forego the morbidity associated with immediate ADT or radiation.

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Editorial: Postoperative radiation and hormonal therapy for men with node‐positive prostate cancer: a new standard?

The best management strategy for men with pathologically node‐positive (pN+) prostate cancer after radical prostatectomy (RP) has been debated for decades [1]. In the 1990s, the Radiation Therapy and Oncology Group (RTOG) initiated the RTOG 9608 trial to test the impact of radiotherapy (RT) and androgen‐deprivation therapy (ADT) in this setting. However, due to the rise in PSA screening and the practice of treating high‐risk prostate cancer with primary RT, the incidence of pN+ disease fell. Consequently, the trial closed due to poor accrual and the question faded in prominence. Today, both trends have reversed. PSA screening is less common and men with high‐risk prostate cancer are more frequently opting for RP. As such, physicians increasingly face the dilemma of pN+ disease. Guidelines provide little assistance, as they support everything from observation to multimodal treatment with RT and ADT. Patients and providers want to know, is there a standard treatment for all patients, and if not, how should one choose between such disparate options?

To answer these questions, one must start with the little randomised data that exist in this setting. The seminal trial by Messing et al. [1] randomised men with pN+ prostate cancer to ADT or observation with initiation of ADT after the development of symptomatic progression or distant metastases. ADT clearly improved overall survival and prostate cancer‐specific survival. However, critics noted the relatively poor outcomes in the observation group and the small sample size. Later, retrospective studies called the benefit of immediate ADT into question [2].

Against this backdrop, it is interesting that Gupta et al. [3] found the most common management approach in the USA National Cancer Database (NCDB) was observation rather than immediate ADT. Despite the randomised data, the cumulative side‐effects from lifelong ADT in a cohort of patients with no disease‐related symptoms and a median survival of well over 10 years are unappealing. Ultimately, many men do not appear to be willing to endure the diminished quality of life in exchange for a small improvement in quantity of life.

In contrast to the non‐curative nature of ADT, the possibility exists that the combination of postoperative RT and ADT could provide durable disease control, perhaps even without lifelong ADT. The data reported by Gupta et al. [3] in this edition of the BJUI provide support for this paradigm. These data add to a growing body of literature [4] that tells a consistent story with two common themes: (i) postoperative RT with ADT appears to be associated with improved survival in men with pN+ prostate cancer, and (ii) RT appears to convey the largest benefit to men with certain high‐risk pathological features. Should this body of literature lead us to eschew the old standard and advise observation for low‐risk men and RT with ADT for men at higher risk?

Before a new standard is declared, the limitations of retrospective population‐based research must be addressed. The authors performed a sophisticated analysis to reduce the impact of selection bias. However, due to the limitation of the available data, the authors were not able to account for possibly the most important variable: the postoperative PSA. One study showed that men with pN+ disease with a persistent PSA had an 8‐year clinical recurrence rate of 69% vs 12% for those with undetectable PSA [5].

It is likely that men with persistent PSA in the NCDB would have received immediate ADT with or without RT rather than observation. As such, one must be cautious of the similar survival between the observation and ADT group, especially in light of contradictory randomised data. That being said, it is reasonable for some men to conclude that the side‐effects of ADT outweigh the potential benefit, especially those with low‐risk features such as an undetectable postoperative PSA, low Gleason score, and limited lymph node involvement.

As RT with ADT appears superior to either observation or ADT alone, should more men receive RT? Probably. Of the men with high‐risk features, only 22% actually received postoperative RT. Should postoperative RT now be considered the standard for all men? Probably not. Whilst it appears that some men may indeed benefit from RT, the possibility of selection bias driving this result is real. Even if there is a true effect, identifying which patients harbour residual local disease, but do not already have subclinical distant metastatic disease is challenging. RT for all would lead to unnecessary side‐effects for men that would not benefit from the treatment. Ultimately, a randomised trial will be required to establish the benefit of RT and to define subgroups of men that may or may not benefit. Until then, we will continue to rely on excellent work like the accompanying paper from Gupta et al. [3] to identify men who may benefit from postoperative RT and ADT.


  1. Messing EM, Manola J, Sarosdy M, Wilding G, Crawford ED, Trump D. Immediate hormonal therapy compared with observation after radical prostatectomy and pelvic lymphadenectomy in men with node‐positive prostate cancer. N Engl J Med 1999341: 1781–8
  2. Wong YN, Freedland S, Egleston B, Hudes G, Schwartz JS, Armstrong K. Role of androgen deprivation therapy for node‐positive prostate cancer. J Clin Oncol 200927: 100–5
  3. Gupta M, Patel HD, Schwen ZR, Tran PT, Partin AW. Adjuvant radiation with androgen deprivation therapy for men with lymph node metastases following radical prostatectomy: identifying men who benefit. BJU Int 2019123: 252–60
  4. Abdollah F, Karnes RJ, Suardi N et al. Impact of adjuvant radiotherapy on survival of patients with node‐positive prostate cancer. J Clin Oncol 201432: 3939–47
  5. Bianchi L, Nini A, Bianchi M et al. The role of prostate‐specific antigen persistence after radical prostatectomy for the prediction of clinical progression and cancer‐specific mortality in node‐positive prostate cancer patients. Eur Urol 201669: 1142–8


Article of the week: RS‐RARP vs standard RARP: it’s time for critical appraisal

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 the article itself, there are two accompanying editorials written by prominent members of the urological community. These are 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. There is also a podcast by one of our Resident Podcasters describing the article.

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

Retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy (RS‐RARP) vs standard RARP: it’s time for critical appraisal

Thomas Stonier*, Nick Simson*, John Davisand Ben Challacombe


*Department of Urology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, Urology Centre, Guy s Hospital, London, UK and Department of Urology, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA


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Since robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP) started to be regularly performed in 2001, the procedure has typically followed the original retropubic approach, with incremental technical improvements in an attempt to improve outcomes. These include the running Van‐Velthoven anastomosis, posterior reconstruction or ‘Rocco stitch’, and cold ligation of the Santorini plexus/dorsal vein to maximise urethral length. In 2010, Bocciardi’s team in Milan proposed a novel posterior or ‘Retzius‐sparing’ RARP (RS‐RARP), mirroring the classic open perineal approach. This allows avoidance of supporting structures, such as the puboprostatic ligaments, endopelvic fascia, and Santorini plexus, preserving the normal anatomy as much as possible and limiting damage that may contribute to improved postoperative continence and erectile function. There has been much heralding of the excellent functional outcomes in both the medical and the lay press, but as yet no focus or real mention of any potential downsides of this new technique.

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Editorial: Retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy

In their commentary in the current issue of BJUI, Stonier et al. [1] examine the potential technical pitfalls and published results of the Retzius‐sparing technique of robotic radical prostatectomy. The authors reviewed three studies from three different groups [2,3], including a study by our group [4], and raised three specific concerns: the oncological efficacy of the procedure; the long learning curve; and the generalizability of the technique to challenging surgical scenarios. We offer a few clarifications and comments.

The first study on Retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy came from the Bocciardi group [2]. This was a prospective, single‐arm study of 200 patients. The authors reported a 14‐day continence rate of 90–92%, a 1‐year potency rate of 71–81% (in preoperatively potent patients undergoing bilateral intrafascial nerve‐sparing) and a positive surgical margin rate of 25.5%. The positive surgical margin rate improved in patients with pT2 disease, from 22% to 9% (P = 0.04) over the course of the study (initial 100 vs subsequent 100 patients), while in patients with pT3 disease, it remained stable at ~45%. Lim et al. [3] also noted an improvement in their overall positive surgical margin rate from 20% to 8% when comparing the initial 25 patients with the subsequent 25 patients. In that study, a standard robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy comparator arm was included and there were no differences in overall positive surgical margin rates (14% in both arms), while continence was better with the Retzius‐sparing approach.

Recognizing the potentially technically challenging nature of the Bocciardi approach, we performed a randomized controlled trial to objectively evaluate the technique. Randomized controlled trials are typically designed to answer a single question. Our trial was designed to determine whether there were differences in the rate of return of urinary continence, the primary benefit that previous non‐controlled studies had reported. This our study clearly showed [4].

Once the trial was completed, post hoc analysis of secondary outcomes was performed [5]. One of these outcomes was the positive surgical margin rate. In our trial, we noted an overall positive surgical margin rate of 25% in the Retzius‐sparing arm vs 13% in the control arm, a difference that did not achieve statistical significance (P = 0.11). Stonier et al. [1] suggested that if the sample size of our trial were doubled, then the positive surgical margin rate in each group would be doubled as well, leading to significance. This conclusion is problematic. The likelihood that doubling the sample size would result in the exact doubling of numbers in all four cells of a 2 × 2 contingency table is estimated at <5% using Fisher’s exact test (this calculation is different from the P value). Furthermore, the surgical margins depend as much on the pathological stage as on surgical approach. In our trial, patients were matched preoperatively for risk in the best manner possible for a pragmatic randomized trial. However, it is impossible to predict and control for the final pathological characteristics. Pathological analysis showed that patients undergoing Retzius‐sparing surgery did have significantly more aggressive disease: ≥pT3 disease in 45% vs 23.3% of patients (P = 0.04) [4, 5]. This, by itself, could account for a substantial difference in surgical margin rates.

In writing our paper, we made no judgements as to whether the Bocciardi or posterior technique is fundamentally superior to an anterior or Menon approach, whether it is easier to perform, how generalizable it is [6], or what the learning curve may be. That is best left to the individual surgeon’s training and judgement. We do suggest, however, that surgical margins be interpreted as a function of pathological variables, and not in isolation, and that it is simplistic to assume that identical results will be obtained by doubling sample size. We suggest that such conclusions are hypothesis‐generating, and should best be explored through a separate, purpose‐designed randomized trial.

Authors: Akshay Sood, Firas Abdollah and Mani Menon


  1. Stonier T, Simson N, Davis J, Challacombe B. Retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy (RS‐RARP) vs standard RARP: it’s time for critical appraisal. BJU Int 2019; 123: 5–10
  2. Galfano A, Di Trapani D, Sozzi F et al. Beyond the learning curve of the Retzius‐sparing approach for robot‐assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: oncologic and functional results of the first 200 patients with >/= 1 year of follow‐up. Eur Urol 2013; 64: 974–80
  3. Lim SK, Kim KH, Shin TY et al. Retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: combining the best of retropubic and perineal approaches. BJU Int 2014; 114: 236–44
  4. Dalela D, Jeong W, Prasad MA et al. A pragmatic randomized controlled trial examining the impact of the Retzius‐sparing approach on early urinary continence recovery after robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy. Eur Urol 2017; 72: 677–85
  5. Menon M, Dalela D, Jamil M et al. Functional recovery, oncologic outcomes and postoperative complications after robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy: an evidence‐based analysis comparing the Retzius sparing and standard approaches. J Urol 2018; 199: 1210–7
  6. Galfano A, Secco S, Bocciardi AM. Will Retzius‐sparing prostatectomy be the future of prostate cancer surgery? Eur Urol 2017; 72: 686–8


Editorial: Reply: RS-RARP vs standard RARP

Since the introduction of robotic surgery in the treatment of patients with prostate cancer (PCa), different surgical innovations have been implemented in order to preserve postoperative functional outcomes while maintaining oncological safety. Sparing the Retzius space during robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP) was introduced early this decade by Galfano et al [1]. Interestingly, 90% and 96% of patients treated with Retzius‐sparing RARP (RS‐RARP) were continent (no pad/safety pad) at 1 week and 1 year, respectively. Similarly, our group reported a 70% continence rate (no pad) at 1 month after RS‐RARP [2].

The fast urinary continence recovery after RS‐RARP is related to several anatomical factors: the anterior Retzius space is kept intact; the urinary bladder is not dropped; the endopelvic fascia and puboprostatic ligaments are preserved; and there is minimal distortion of the supporting urethral tissues. A recent study reported [3] that less bladder neck descent was observed during postoperative cystogram in patients treated with RS‐RARP than in those treated with standard RARP.

In a recent randomized controlled study, the postoperative continence rate at 1 week was 48% in standard RARP compared with 71% in RS‐RARP (P = 0.01), and this difference was maintained at 3 months (86% standard RARP vs 95% RS‐RARP; P = 0.02). At 1 year, however, the effect on urinary continence difference was muted (93.3% standard RARP vs 98.3% RS‐RARP; P = 0.09) [4]. Similarly, Chang et al. [3] found that the higher continence rate at 1 week (73.3% RS‐RARP vs 26.7% standard RARP; P = 0.000) had vanished at 1 year (100% vs 93.3%; P = 0.15). By contrast, a large recent prospective series showed that the superiority of RS‐RARP in terms of higher early urinary continence was maintained at 1 year (97.5% RS‐RARP vs 68.5% standard RARP) [5].

In addition to a higher early continence rate, RS‐RARP has a lower incidence of postoperative inguinal hernia occurrence compared with standard RARP [6]. Theoretically, RS‐RARP may provide several other potential advantages. It may be advantageous if patients require future surgery necessitating access to the Retzius space and dropping of the bladder, such as an artificial urinary sphincter implantation, an inflatable penile prosthesis insertion, or kidney transplantation. In addition, in patients with previous inguinal hernia repair using mesh, it enables the avoidance of anterior adhesions by accessing the prostate directly from the Douglas pouch. Notably, large‐size glands and/or middle‐lobe, advanced/high‐risk PCa, and patients with previous prostatic surgeries can be managed safely with RS‐RARP in experienced hands.

Undoubtedly, oncological safety is our main concern in treating cancer. To determine the effectiveness of new treatment methods, long‐term follow‐up is warranted. Biochemical recurrence (BCR) is widely used as a primary oncological outcome to assess PCa treatment success. To our knowledge, after radical prostatectomy, ~35% of patients are at risk of developing BCR in the next 10 years. Currently, there are insufficient data regarding the oncological outcomes of RS‐RARP. Only four articles have compared early oncological outcomes between RS‐RARP and standard RARP, and there was no significant difference (Table 1).

More recently, we reported on the mid‐term oncological outcomes of 359 patients who underwent RS‐RARP. The median follow‐up was 26 months. Although this period is not long enough to reach a meaningful conclusion on the oncological safety of RS‐RARP, it is the longest follow‐up period reported in literature. Overall, the positive surgical margin (PSM) rate was 30.6% (14.6% in pT2 and 40.8% in pT3a disease) and the BCR rate was 14.8%. In terms of functional outcomes, the urinary continence rate at 1 year was 93.9% [7]. Interestingly, 164 patients (45.7%) of our cohort had high‐risk PCa. In these patients, the PSM rate was 41.2%, the BCR rate was 22%, and the 3‐year BCR‐free survival (BCRFS) rate was 72%. We compared our results with those in patients with high‐risk PCa treated with standard RARP in the literature. In studies that used the D’Amico criteria the median follow‐up ranged from 12.5 to 37.3 months, the PSM rates were 20.5% to 53.3%, the BCR rates were 17.4% to 31% and the 3‐year BCRFS rates were 41.4% to 86%. In studies that used the National Comprehensive Cancer Network criteria, the median follow‐up ranged from 23.6 to 27 months, the PSM rates were 29% to 38%, the BCR rates were 9.4% to 33%, and the 3‐year BCRFS rates were 55% to 66% [7].

In summary, RS‐RARP is a novel surgical approach which is associated with better urinary continence recovery in the first few months compared with standard RARP [2,3,4,5]. This superiority might be maintained [5] or equalized at 1 year [3,4]. A few studies have compared the early oncological results between RS‐RARP and standard RARP and no significant difference was found [2,3,4,5]. Recently, our group reported the mid‐term oncological outcomes of patients with high‐risk PCa treated with RS‐RARP and these were similar to those of large studies of conventional RARP. This confirms effective and safe mid‐term BCR control after RS‐RARP, while the long‐term oncological results are awaited [7]. Currently, >4 000 cases of RS‐RARP are performed worldwide and more centres are beginning to use and converting to Retzius‐sparing surgery. All centres are experiencing faster recovery of continence. Thanks are due to Drs Galfano and Bocciardi for exploring and sharing this surgical frontier.



  1. Galfano A, Di Trapani D, Sozzi F, et al. Beyond the learning curve of the Retzius‐sparing approach for robotassisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: oncologic and functional results of the first 200 patients with ? 1 year of follow‐up. Eur Urol 2013; 64: 974‐80
  2. Lim SK, Kim KH, Shin TY et al. Retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: combining the best of retropubic and perineal approaches. BJU Int 2014; 114: 236–44
  3. Chang LW, Hung SC, Hu JC et al. Retzius‐sparing robotic‐assisted radical prostatectomy associated with less bladder neck descent and better early continence outcome. Anticancer Res 2018; 38: 345–51
  4. Menon M, Dalela D, Jamil M et al. Functional recovery, oncologic outcomes and postoperative complications after robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy: an evidence‐based analysis comparing the Retzius sparing and standard approaches. J Urol 2018; 199: 1210–7
  5. Sayyid RK, Simpson WG, Lu C et al. Retzius sparing robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: a safe surgical technique with superior continence outcomes. J Endourol 2017; 31: 1244–50
  6. Chang KD, Abdel Raheem A, Santok GDR et al. Anatomical Retzius‐space preservation is associated with lower incidence of postoperative inguinal hernia development after robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy. Hernia 2017; 21: 555–61
  7. Abdel Raheem A, Kidon C, Alenzi M et al. Predictors of biochemical recurrence after retzius‐sparing robot‐assisted radical prostatectomy: analysis of 359 cases with a median follow‐up of 26 months. Int J Urol 2018; 25: 1006–14


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