Defining clinically significant prostate cancer on the basis of pathological findings

Andres Matoso, Jonathan I. Epstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The definition of clinically significant prostate cancer is a dynamic process that was initiated many decades ago, when there was already evidence that a great proportion of patients with prostate cancer diagnosed at autopsy never had any clinical symptoms. Autopsy studies led to examinations of radical prostatectomy (RP) specimens and the establishment of the definition of significant cancer at RP: tumour volume of 0.5 cm 3 , Gleason grade 6 [Grade Group (GrG) 1], and organ-confined disease. RP studies were then used to develop prediction models for significant cancer by the use of needle biopsies. The first such model was used to delineate the first active surveillance (AS) criteria, known as the ‘Epstein’ criteria, in which patients with a cancer Gleason score of 3 + 3 = 6 (GrG1) involving fewer than two cores, and <50% of any given core, and a prostate-specific antigen density of <0.15 ng/ml per cm 3 had a minimal risk of significant cancer at RP. These were adopted as components of the ‘very-low-risk category’ of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, in which AS is supported as a management option. With the increase in the popularity of AS, much research has been carried out to better define significant/insignificant cancer, in order to be able to safely offer AS to a larger proportion of patients without the risk of undertreatment. Research has focused on allowing higher volume tumours, focal extraprostatic extension, and a limited amount of Gleason pattern 4, and the significance of different morphological patterns of Gleason 4. Other areas of research that will probably impact on the field but that are not covered in this review include the molecular classification of tumours and imaging techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • active surveillance
  • prostate cancer
  • significant cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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