Molecular markers in prostate cancer: the role in preoperative staging.
Radical prostatectomy as a primary treatment for clinically localized prostate cancer has increased dramatically over the past decade due to prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening and the awareness of the increased incidence of localized disease. Despite the stage migration to increase clinically localized disease, there are still vast numbers of men who harbor occult extraprostatic extension and develop recurrence after surgery. The study of molecular markers in the blood or tissue of surgical patients prior to treatment, called " molecular staging, " is the focus of this review. The reverse transcriptase- polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for PSA gene expression in peripheral blood or bone marrow has received considerable attention since its first report in 1992. The test detects messenger RNA species for prostate-specific/abundant genes such as PSA and prostate-specific membrane antigen. These messenger RNAs were not detected in normal blood or bone marrow, but were detected in some prostate cancer patients presumably due to circulating prostatic epithelial cells. These prostate epithelial cells are thought to be occult metastases cells, and early studies correlated a positive RT-PCR test with surgical pathology adverse features such as positive margins. Despite the many studies over the past few years, there have been inconsistent results, and the most recent studies have not been able to confirm clinical utility. Bone marrow RT-PCR has been more promising; however, it is still a research tool that needs further study. The study of molecular markers in tissue material, ie, prostate biopsy samples prior to radical prostatectomy, is problematic due to the sampling error inherent in a multifocal heterogeneous tumor such as prostate cancer. The tumor suppressor proteins p53 and p27, Bcl-2 oncoprotein, Ki-67 proliferation index protein, E-cadherin, and microvessel density have been assessed in preradical prostatectomy needle biopsy. Results have been conflicting, and none are yet accepted as a clinically useful marker. Current and future work is focusing on analysis of multiple gene expressions or proteins simultaneously via gene chip or proteomics technology. While these expression profiles might be of value in whole prostate surgical specimens where tissues are well characterized, it is unclear how this new technology will be applied to the needle biopsy samples. Although molecular staging of radical prostatectomy patients has been under study for a decade, all assays remain research tools. Still, this area holds great promise for improving the accuracy of staging and providing a more accurate prognosis of individual men with clinically localized prostate cancer.
Moul, JW; Merseburger, AS; Srivastava, S
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