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Novel Tools to Improve Patient Selection and Monitoring on Active Surveillance for Low-risk Prostate Cancer: A Systematic Review

European Urology, 6, 65, pages 1023 - 1031



Active surveillance (AS) is an alternative to initial radical treatment of low-risk prostate cancer (PCa). Current criteria for selection and follow-up incorrectly exclude some patients eligible for AS and misclassify some who actually harbour significant disease. Better prediction of cancer behaviour at diagnosis would allow less strict monitoring and may improve acceptance of AS.


To review and critically analyse the literature on the value of novel clinical tools for patient selection and monitoring on AS.

Evidence acquisition

A comprehensive search of the PubMed database until July 10, 2013, was performed according to Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis statement guidelines. Studies assessing novel markers and diagnostics for patient selection for AS and follow-up during AS were included. Studies analysing only classic clinical parameters used in current protocols (prostate-specific antigen, prostate volume, number of (positive) prostate biopsies, percentage malignant tissue, Gleason score) were excluded. This review focuses only on the AS setting and not on predicting insignificant disease in general.

Evidence synthesis

Of 787 studies on AS, 30 were included in this review: 14 on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), 5 on serum markers, 5 on urinary markers, 4 on histopathology markers, and 2 on germline genetic markers. Several of these markers improve the prediction of tumour volume, tumour grade, or time to active treatment. MRI has a high specificity for low-risk PCa; new serum markers are associated with unfavourable disease. In none of the studies was the new marker used as the primary decision tool. Long-term outcome measures such as mortality were not assessed. The definition of indolent PCa is disputable.


Imaging and serum markers may improve future patient selection for AS and follow-up during AS. Prospective studies should aim to further evaluate the clinical utility of these new markers with respect to longer term outcomes of AS.

Patient summary

We searched the literature for articles reporting new ways to safely monitor low-risk prostate cancer for patients who have not had radical treatment. We found 30 articles. The most promising tools appear to be magnetic resonance imaging scans and various new blood markers. These may be used in the future within active surveillance regimens.

Take Home Message

Novel tools may improve active surveillance (AS) selection and follow-up protocols. Magnetic resonance imaging and prostate-specific antigen isoforms in particular require prospective evaluation. They may increase the number of patients suitable for AS and reduce the burden of AS.

Keywords: Active surveillance, Expectant management, Histopathology, Markers, Prostate cancer, PSA, MRI, Urinary.


a University Medical Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands

b University College London, London, UK

c Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

d Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

e CHRU Lille, Université Lille Nord de France, Lille, France

f Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton, UK

lowast Corresponding author. Homeruslaan 24-1, 3581 MH, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Tel. +31 6 23456800.