Objectives. To evaluate serial measurements of free and total prostate- specific antigen (PSA) as a predictor of prostate cancer aggressiveness. Methods. Twenty men diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the prostate in the pre- PSA era had serum PSA measurements made on multiple stored frozen sera samples available for up to 18 years prior to diagnosis. Subjects were categorized as having aggressive cancer (n = 12) based on the presence of clinical Stage T3, or nodal or bone metastases (N+, M+), or pathologic positive-margin disease, or a Gleason score of 7 or greater; nonaggressive cancer (n = 8) was identified by the absence of these criteria. Results. There was no statistically significant difference in free PSA levels among men with aggressive and nonaggressive prostate cancers from 0 to 15 years before diagnosis. Total PSA levels were significantly different between the groups by 5 years before diagnosis (P = 0.04). At a time when total PSA levels were not different between groups (10 years before diagnosis), there was a statistically significant difference in the percentage of free PSA between aggressive and nonaggressive cancers (P = 0.008). Among 14 men who had sera available for analysis at 10 years before diagnosis, all 8 men with aggressive cancers had a percent free PSA of 0.14 or less; this compares with only 2 of 6 men (33%) with nonaggressive cancer. Conclusions. These data suggest that the percentage of free PSA in sera is predictive of tumor behavior at a time when total PSA levels provide no information on tumor aggressiveness. Evaluation of the percentage of free serum PSA may be helpful in making the decision between expectant management and treatment for those men who are diagnosed with early prostate cancers by PSA testing.
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