The Gordon Wilson Lecture. Natural history and treatment of early stage prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer poses a challenge to society and to physicians. It is a remarkably prevalent tumor, perhaps the most common cancer in the world in its histologic manifestation. In its clinically apparent form, it is notably heterogeneous. Some patients live out their lives with a prostate cancer that remains stable for decades without treatment. In other cases, the cancer grows aggressively, responds poorly to therapy, and causes death within a few years. The median loss-of-life expectancy for men diagnosed with prostate cancer has been estimated at 9 years. Important advances have been made in the past two decades in the treatment of prostate cancer. Further progress will require more accurate characterization of the primary tumor in each individual patient to tailor treatment--whether conservative or aggressive, surgery or radiation--more accurately to the nature of the individual cancer. Imaging studies in particular must be improved if we are to have better, noninvasive ways to identify the presence of a cancer and to define its volume, location, and extent. Substantial progress against this disease will require major breakthroughs in our understanding of the etiology of prostate cancer, the development of effective chemopreventive agents, more accurate ways to assess the biological potential of the tumor, and more effective systemic agents to treat metastatic cancer.