BACKGROUND: The optimal timing to start androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in prostate cancer patients with rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) as the only sign of relapse is unknown.
METHODS: We identified men with prostate cancer in the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavour (CaPSURE) study who would have been eligible (⩽ cT3aN0M0, primary radical prostatectomy or radiotherapy, PSA relapse as the only evidence of recurrence) for a randomised trial comparing 'immediate' versus 'deferred' ADT initiation. We emulated such trial by assigning patients to the 'immediate' strategy if they initiated ADT within 3 months of PSA relapse and to the 'deferred' strategy if they initiated ADT when they presented with metastasis, symptoms or a short PSA doubling time. We censored patients when they deviated from the assigned strategy and adjusted for this censoring via inverse probability weighting.
RESULTS: Of 2096 eligible patients (median age 69, interquartile range 63-75 years), 88% were white, 35% had a Gleason score ⩾ 7, 69% were treated with radical prostatectomy and 31% received radiotherapy only as primary treatment. The mean time from primary treatment to PSA relapse was 37.4 (standard deviation [SD] 34.2) months. Mean follow-up from primary treatment was 91.4 (SD 48.4) months. The adjusted mortality hazard ratio for immediate versus deferred ADT was 0.91 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.52-1.60), which would be translated into a similar 5-year survival (difference between groups: -2.0% (95% CI: -10.0 to 5.9%).
CONCLUSION: Our analysis suggests that prostate cancer patients undergoing immediate ADT initiation within three months after PSA-only relapse had similar survival to those who deferred ADT initiation within 3 months after clinical progression.