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Re-evaluating the diagnostic efficacy of PSA as a referral test to detect clinically significant prostate cancer in contemporary MRI-based image-guided biopsy pathways

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stuart McCracken, Dr Tobias Page



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© British Association of Urological Surgeons 2021.Introduction: Modern image-guided biopsy pathways at diagnostic centres have greatly refined the investigations of men referred with suspected prostate cancer. However, the referral criteria from primary care are still based on historical prostate-specific antigen (PSA) cut-offs and age-referenced thresholds. Here, we tested whether better contemporary pathways and biopsy methods had improved the predictive utility value of PSA referral thresholds. Methods: PSA referral thresholds, age-referenced ranges and PSA density (PSAd) were assessed for positive predictive value (PPV) in detection of clinically significant prostate cancer (csPCa – histological ⩾ Grade Group 2). Data were analysed from men referred to three diagnostics centres who used multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (mpMRI)-guided prostate biopsies for disease characterisation. Findings were validated in a separate multicentre cohort. Results: Data from 2767 men were included in this study. The median age, PSA and PSAd were 66.4 years, 7.3 ng/mL and 0.1 ng/mL2, respectively. Biopsy detected csPCa was found in 38.7%. The overall area under the curve (AUC) for PSA was 0.68 which is similar to historical performance. A PSA threshold of ⩾ 3 ng/mL had a PPV of 40.3%, but this was age dependent (PPV: 24.8%, 32.7% and 56.8% in men 50–59 years, 60–69 years and ⩾ 70 years, respectively). Different PSA cut-offs and age-reference ranges failed to demonstrate better performance. PSAd demonstrated improved AUC (0.78 vs 0.68, p < 0.0001) and improved PPV compared to PSA. A PSAd of ⩾ 0.10 had a PPV of 48.2% and similar negative predictive value (NPV) to PSA ⩾ 3 ng/mL and out-performed PSA age-reference ranges. This improved performance was recapitulated in a separate multi-centre cohort (n = 541). Conclusion: The introduction of MRI-based image-guided biopsy pathways does not appear to have altered PSA diagnostic test characteristics to positively detect csPCa. We find no added value to PSA age-referenced ranges, while PSAd offers better PPV and the potential for a single clinically useful threshold (⩾0.10) for all age groups. Level of evidence: IV

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lophatananon A, Light A, Burns-Cox N, Maccormick A, John J, Otti V, McGrath J, Archer P, Anning J, McCracken S, Page T, Muir K, Gnanapragasam VJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Clinical Urology

Year: 2023

Volume: 16

Issue: 4

Pages: 264-273

Print publication date: 01/07/2023

Online publication date: 01/12/2021

Acceptance date: 24/10/2021

Date deposited: 09/08/2023

ISSN (print): 2051-4158

ISSN (electronic): 2051-4166

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/20514158211059057


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