The contemporary concept of significant versus insignificant prostate cancer

Guillaume Ploussard, Jonathan I. Epstein, Rodolfo Montironi, Peter R. Carroll, Manfred Wirth, Marc Oliver Grimm, Anders S. Bjartell, Francesco Montorsi, Stephen J. Freedland, Andreas Erbersdobler, Theodorus H. Van Der Kwast

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Context: The notion of insignificant prostate cancer (Ins-PCa) has progressively emerged in the past two decades. The clinical relevance of such a definition was based on the fact that low-grade, small-volume, and organ-confined prostate cancer (PCa) may be indolent and unlikely to progress to biologic significance in the absence of treatment. Objective: To review the definition of Ins-PCa, its incidence, and the clinical impact of Ins-PCa on the contemporary management of PCa. Evidence acquisition: A review of the literature was performed using the Medline, Scopus, and Web of Science databases with no restriction on language up to September 2010. The literature search used the following terms: insignificant, indolent, minute, microfocal, minimal, low volume, low risk, and prostate cancer. Evidence synthesis: The most commonly used criteria to define Ins-PCa are based on the pathologic assessment of the radical prostatectomy specimen: (1) Gleason score ≤6 without Gleason pattern 4 or 5, (2) organ-confined disease, and (3) tumour volume < 0.5 cm 3. Several preoperative criteria and prognostication tools for predicting Ins-PCa have been suggested. Nomograms are best placed to estimate the risk of progression on an individualised basis, but a substantial proportion of men with a high probability of harbouring Ins-PCa are at risk for pathologic understaging and/or undergrading. Thus, there is an ongoing need for identifying novel and more accurate predictors of Ins-PCa to improve the distinction between insignificant versus significant disease and thus to promote the adequate management of PCa patients at low risk for progression. Conclusions: The exciting challenge of obtaining the pretreatment diagnostic tools that can really distinguish insignificant from significant PCa should be one of the main objectives of urologists in the following years to decrease the risk of overtreatment of Ins-PCa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Urology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Active surveillance
  • Indolent
  • Insignificant
  • Prediction
  • Prostate cancer
  • Significant
  • Tumour volume

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology

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