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Posts tagged ‘Prostate Cancer Intervention versus Observation Study’

Dr Benjamin J. Davies, an academic urologist at the University of Pittsburgh today castrated the media over their coverage of the Prostate Cancer Intervention versus Observation Trial (PIVOT).

Pivot Prostate Cancer Trial Conclusion

In an article titled “Prostate Cancer: Lessons from PIVOT lost in media hype” published in the News and Views section of Nature Reviews Urology, Dr Davies states, “we must be careful to ensure the less-newsworthy facts and limitations of high-profile trials, such as PIVOT, are not lost in the media hype.

Davies goes on to say,

“an odious meme is circulating in the medical media, suggesting that prostate cancer is universally diagnosed, that PSA screening causes more harm than help, and that urologists should disregard basic epidemiologic data.”

Strong words perhaps, but those who follow Davies on twitter (@daviesbj) will know that he does not mince words and is not lost for an opinion.

However, in writing for a publication such as Nature Reviews Urology, which is probably not on the reading list of the private practice urologist or member of the mass media, he is preaching to the converted, namely academic-orientated physicians like Davies himself.

All clinical trials have their limitations, and Davies makes valid points that the PIVOT trial has a number of noticeable weaknesses.  Attention was also drawn to this in the accompanying editorial when the data was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  I encourage you to read his review.

I reported the presentations of the PIVOT data from the plenary sessions at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA) and the 2012 congress of the European Association of Urology (EAU) on this blog and do take exception to Davies’ implied assertion that ALL the media coverage of the PIVOT trial was “hype.”

Experienced Healthcare journalists such as Scott Hensley (@scotthensley) provided fair and evenly balanced coverage on NPR Shots, for example.

If the media coverage of the PIVOT trial data was not as balanced or did not contain the message that Davies wanted to hear, then rather than shoot the media messenger the urology community should ask themselves why they did not obtain it?

Interestingly, at AUA 2011 and EAU 2012 there were no press conferences on the PIVOT trial data, yet it was an important topic and a plenary presentation.  Press conferences allow the media to ask questions of a panel of speakers and the opportunity to gain a variety of perspectives.  Why did the leading urologists who organize these major medical congresses not provide this access?

It is the responsibility of the urology community to reach out and educate the media if you think we don’t understand the nuances of the data.

Davies singles out the PIVOT trial for critical review, but in so doing he touches upon the wider issue of the lack of quality clinical trial data to support treatment and practice in urology.  It is for this reason that those clinical trials that are published, whatever their limitations, have disproportionate impact.

As I wrote from EAU 2012, why is there no level 1 evidence-based medicine that shows the benefits of robot assisted radical prostatectomy?  Are academic physicians unable to do high quality and robust clinical trials that justify their practice?

In his article, Davies goes beyond criticizing the PIVOT trial to castigating the media over their coverage of PSA screening, for which he is an ardent proponent.

Unfortunately, he ignores the reality that mass media don’t generate the data, they only report what organizations such as the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend.  If academic urologists believe the USPSTF got it wrong, then the failure is theirs in their inability to generate compelling data or influence the recommendations.

Finally, when Davies says, “no doubt urologists have not helped themselves by overscreening and overtreating” he touches on what I believe is the underlying cause of much of the problem associated with PSA screening.

Academic urologists need to educate their community colleagues.  Influencing everyday practice and treatment decisions will do more to help patients in the long run than being critical of the media, however justified that may be in some cases.

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Data from the Prostate Cancer Intervention versus Observation Study (PIVOT) presented today in the plenary session of the 2011 annual meeting of American Urological Association (AUA) will have a major impact on the practice of Urology.

The VA/NCI/AHRQ cooperative study, initiated in 1994, was designed to assess the effect of radical prostatectomy (RP) compared to observation only or “watchful waiting” in men with localized prostate cancer.

What makes the PIVOT study so important is that it is the first randomized trial in the United States to look at RP versus “watchful waiting.”  In all, 13,022 men were screened at 52 US centers, from which 5023 men were deemed eligible.  Surprisingly, 4292 declined randomization and 731 men were enrolled in the trial.

The primary endpoint was all-cause mortality and the secondary endpoint, Prostate Cancer (PCa) mortality.  The two groups of patients were comparable between the observation and RP groups (mean age 66.8, 67.0 years); PSA Mean (10.2, 10.1), Gleason Score < 6 (70.1%, 69.8%).

Timothy Wilt (Minnesota) presented the results today at AUA 2011 (Abstract#407)

All-Cause Mortality

  • Absolute Risk Reduction (ARR) between Observation & RP = 2.9%,
  • Hazard Ratio = 0.88 (95% 0.71-1.08), P=0.22



Prostate Cancer Mortality – all patients

  • AR = 2.7%  (95% CI -1.3 to 6.2)
  • Hazard Ratio=0.63 (95% CI 0.36-1.09), p=0.09

In other words looking at the groups as a whole there was no benefit of RP on survival.  Wilt presented further analysis on subgroups with low-risk local pathology, intermediate risk-local pathology and high risk PSA>10.

Only in the high-risk groups (PSA>10) was there a significant benefit to RP, in terms of lowering Prostate Cancer Mortality.

  • HR= 0.36 (0.15 to 0.89); p=0.03
  • ARR = 7.2% (0 to 14.8)

Wilt’s conclusion from the data was that compared to observation, RP produced

“reductions in all-cause and prostate cancer mortality that were not significant and less than 3% in absolute terms over 12 years.”

He added that:

“Surgery did not reduce mortality more than observation in men with low PSA or low risk from Prostate Cancer”

However, these “results suggest a benefit from surgery in men with higher PSA or higher risk of disease.”

The PIVOT trial provides evidence-based medicine results that will directly influence how urologists treat early stage prostate cancer.  Several urologists and others at AUA tweeted about the PIVOT data.  Using Storify, these provide some sentiments and perspective from practicing urologists in the live audience.

The conclusion from this data is that low risk, early stage prostate cancer patients should be observed by “watchful waiting” rather than undergo radical prostatectomy (RP).  This may have a financial impact on urologists who previously may have favored RP in low risk patients.

Update May 23, 2011

A webcast with audio and slides of Dr Wilt’s plenary presentation of the PIVOT data is now available on the AUA website.

Update March 6, 2012

Dr Wilt presented an update on the PIVOT trial at the 2012 European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Paris. You can read my blog post from the meeting:

PIVOT data continues to show no survival benefit for prostatectomy over watchful waiting in men with low to medium risk early prostate cancer.”

 Update July 18, 2012

The data from the PIVOT trial presented in the plenary sessions at AUA 2011 and EAU 2012 has finally been published online first (July 18, 2012) in The New England Journal of Medicine.NEJM PIVOT trial prostate cancer

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