Current imaging modalities used to stage prostate cancer clinically fail to detect extracapsular disease in a significant subset of patients. A molecular based peripheral blood assay using the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction has recently been shown to be a highly sensitive staging modality for detecting extraprostatic disease preoperatively. The assay uses primers that are specific for prostate specific antigen (PSA). We compare the application of the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay using primers specific for the human prostate specific membrane antigen with results obtained from the same specimens by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for PSA. Prostate specific membrane antigen, a recently cloned prostatic antigen, is a transmembrane glycoprotein that has been described as prostate specific. These assays were applied to ribonucleic acids extracted from the peripheral blood lymphocyte fraction of 80 patients with clinically localized prostate cancer. In addition, blood specimens from 20 female patients, 20 young male patients, 25 age-matched control men under treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy and 20 men with established, untreated metastatic prostate cancer were tested. All 3 groups of noncancer patients had negative polymerase chain reactions for PSA as well as prostate specific membrane antigen. Of 20 metastatic prostate cancer patients 16 (80 percent) had positive polymerase chain reactions for PSA, while only 10 (50 percent) had positive results for prostate specific membrane antigen. Among the 80 patients with clinically localized disease (stages T1 to T2cNOMO), 27 and 19 had positive polymerase chain reaction for PSA and prostate specific membrane antigen, respectively, from blood specimens obtained preoperatively. Analyzing the final pathology in each patient with the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay identified a significantly stronger correlation with tumor invasion using the results of the PSA test rather than the results of the prostate specific membrane antigen reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test (67 percent versus 34 percent sensitivity for detecting capsular penetration, 87 percent versus 46 percent sensitivity for detecting disease to the surgical margin and 83 percent versus 16 percent sensitivity for detecting seminal vesicle invasion). In contrast to the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay for PSA, a similar assay done for prostate specific membrane antigen did not correlate with pathological stage of prostate cancer.
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