MALE LUMPECTOMY: FOCAL THERAPY
IS THE FUTURE OF PROSTATE
GARY ONIK, MD • THE ONIK PROSTATE CANCER CENTER - AVENTURA, FL
CONTACT: KAREN BARRIE, MS (847) 502-1414 OR EMAIL: [email protected]
For both patients and doctors, current prostate cancer
management reminds me of Oliver Hardy saying to Stan
Laurel, “This is another fine mess you have gotten me into!”
Relying on radical treatments with high morbidity, we seem
to have abandoned the basic tenets of cancer therapy:
1. Find it early.
2. Stage it as accurately as possible.
3. Treat it aggressively, appropriate to its stage and tumor
We find ourselves in a paradoxical situation. Early detection
of prostate cancer has become difficult, if not impossible, due
to new guidelines against routine PSA screening. Why did
the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a volunteer panel of
medical professionals, rule against wide use of a simple and
effective screening tool? First, men with suspicious or rising
test results are sent for an unpleasant diagnostic procedure
(TRUS biopsy) that has been proven to miss up to 30% of
cancers. Those with negative biopsies later have repeat
biopsies, while expense (and anxiety) mount up. Second, this
protocol finds too many less aggressive cancers—and the
cure may be worse than the disease.
A dilemma between overtreatment vs. no treatment occurs
when patients diagnosed with low-to-moderate risk
cancer are counseled to defer treatment in favor of active
surveillance, a strategy for which many patients don’t have
the psychological tolerance—they worry that a time bomb
is ticking in their bodies. This worry may well be justified
by a recent UCLA study showing how prostate cancer cells
are a moving target. (1) Yet this advice is given so men can
hold off on the risks of overtreatment: urinary and sexual
side effects. So we don’t go looking for cancer because we
might find it, over treat it, and damage men’s quality of life?
Can you think of any other cancer for which early detection
is discouraged and treatment delayed? It is extremely rare to
suggest that other cancers (breast, liver, lung, kidney, liver,
etc.) can simply be monitored!
My twofold thesis addresses this dilemma by offering a safe
and effective middle ground:
A. For diagnosis, there is an alternative to TRUS biopsy that
is extraordinarily accurate, painless, and does not involve
puncturing the rectal wall. It is the 3D Transperineal Prostate
Mapping Biopsy (3D-PMB), which is more disease-specific
for low, moderate and high-risk cancers than MRI-guided
targeted biopsies. It improves prostate cancer management
decisions by up to 70% because it allows matching the
treatment to the disease, and it provides specific localization
for precise targeting. In short, it meets the first and second
tenets of cancer therapy.
B. For treatment, there is an effective FDA-approved minimally
invasive procedure that satisfies the third tenet of cancer
therapy, to the major benefit of the patient.
THE MALE LUMPECTOMY
This article describes our latest results with both 3D-PMB
and focal cryotherapy (cryoablation, or simply cryo, meaning
lethal freeze). Our data validates the advantages of what I
first termed the Male Lumpectomy.
I now have long term results (average follow up of 10 years)
with focal cryotherapy for prostate cancer or the Male
Lumpectomy. I first presented this idea in a 2002 paper
(2) demonstrating that we could effectively locate and
target a prostate tumor without having to destroy, remove
or irradiate the whole gland. By isolating and treating just
the tumor and a surrounding safety margin, we generate
competitive (actually better) efficacy in controlling cancer
while preserving healthy tissue to markedly lower morbidity
That paper started the ball rolling. Focal prostate cancer
therapy is now carried out in some manner in major U.S.
cancer centers, including MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins,
Sloan Kettering, Duke and NYU to name a few. Textbooks
cover the subject and annual medical meetings on this topic
are convened. The results are consistent: good cancer control,
yet low side effect risks.
My own study data offers compelling evidence that mapping
biopsy and focal cryo provide a combined clinical approach
www.paactusa.org • Spring 2014 / Prostate Cancer Communication 3
that completely changes the current paradigm, meeting the
highest cancer treatment standards, and bringing it fully in
line with the best therapies for local treatment of any other
tumor. Additionally, this approach greatly reduces the high
economic costs of conventional prostate cancer treatments
(robotic prostatectomy and radiation therapy), as well as
the long term personal quality of life costs (with their own
associated management dollars).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
In our practice, we stage patients for focal therapy using
3D Transperineal Prostate Mapping Biopsy (3D-PMB).
Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) guided biopsy is not enough
to guide focal therapy. 3D-PMB is carried out under general
anesthesia (so it’s painless). Unlike a transrectal biopsy, which
takes prostate samples through the rectal wall, 3D-PMB is
done through the perineum (the skin between the scrotum
and rectum). A grid, like that used in brachytherapy, is
placed against the skin, and ultrasound guides the position
of needles into the gland. Note that while ultrasound cannot
distinguish important differences in normal and cancerous
tissue, it clearly shows the placement of biopsy needles.
Tissue samples taken throughout the gland are separately
marked with the grid coordinates so their precise location is
identified in the pathology report. This is what gives a threedimensional or holographic map of any cancers, even very
small ones that might be found. We are able to take far more
samples than the 10-12 commonly taken in a TRUS biopsy.
3D-PMB also has the advantage of more accurate Gleason
scores since there’s little risk of missing a tumor core where
the more dangerous cells tend to be.
A study we published in the most prestigious cancer journal
in the world (Journal of Clinical Oncology) compared the
results of TRUS biopsy vs. 3D-PMB in over 180 patients (3).
What we found was sobering. Compared to TRUS biopsy,
3D-PMB found 50% more cancer on the opposite side of
the gland. It also raised the Gleason score in approximately
25% of patients. Additionally, a 3D-PMB is safer than TRUS
biopsy because it is a sterile procedure, greatly lowering
the chance for life threatening sepsis (infection with colon
bacteria) and debilitating prostatitis that are significant
risks in TRUS biopsy. Identifying the exact location of each
specimen allows exact treatment targeting of the tumor,
including its location, size and shape.
Some clinicians are using MRI guided biopsies to guide
focal therapy. Studies comparing MRI to mapping biopsy or
prostatectomy specimens show that it misses 25% of significant
cancers (4) and is only 28% specific, meaning that 72% of the
time what it reads as cancer is not (5). While I support advanced
multiparametric MRI of the prostate as an adjunct resource,
only 3D-PMB can give the thorough tissue map necessary for
long term cancer control as demonstrated by my data.
Prostate Cancer Communication / Spring 2014 • www.paactusa.org
What about the concern that biopsies spread cancer? There
is absolutely no credible clinical evidence that this happens.
Why is this important? Fears of “track seeding” have been
sadly overplayed by a handful of doctors who feed patients’
wishful thinking that prostate cancer can be clinically
diagnosed and staged by imaging alone. In fact, MRI or color
Doppler is not specific enough to make an accurate diagnosis
of prostate cancer, meaning it often OVER estimates less
aggressive cancer, and is not sensitive enough in identifying
very small but significant cancers. Anyone who tells you,
based solely on imaging, that you have cancer is doing you
a great disservice—especially if they proceed to treat you.
It is my conviction that any physician who treats based on
imaging and/or rising PSA without biopsy confirmation
is committing the grossest kind of malpractice. In the last
month I encountered two patients who had been offered
radiation without biopsy confirmation of cancer. I was
appalled, as this violates the universal medical ethic, “Above
all do no harm” (primum non nocere).
In our practice, we originally theorized that perhaps 25-30%
of prostate cancer cases would be amenable to focal therapy.
Our experience, confirmed by another study (6), showed that
as many as 94% of patients qualify for a focal approach. In
other words, focal therapy is more than a “niche” treatment—
many more men may benefit, especially when their disease is
accurately diagnosed and staged, and when the treatment is
done by an expert.
Once you have located the tumor there are a number of ways
to kill the cancer. We mainly use cryotherapy (cryoablation
or simply “cryo”) to carry out the focal therapy. Cryo is
the only ablation modality that has Level One evidence
of superiority over beam radiation in eradicating cancer
(compared in a randomized study) (7). Another excellent
reason to use cryo comes from evidence of a specific tumor
immunologic effect when a cancer is frozen. This effect has
been shown in animal models to prevent metastatic disease
and to cause regression of distant prostate cancer metastases
(spread) in patients. Our cancer control results with medium
and high risk patients are so much better than reported data
with radical prostatectomy or radiation that an immunologic
explanation for these results must be considered. Heat-based
therapies such as laser and HIFU denature (destroy beyond
recognition) tumor proteins (antigens). It is these antigens on
the surface of cells that scatter into the body. Since they are
not intact cells they cannot spread or cause cancer, but they
are helpful because they appear to trigger this immunologic
effect (8, 9). I predict it will take at least a decade to see if heatbased ablation gets the same immunologic results. Personally,
I don’t want to deprive my patients of this potential benefit,
particularly when there is no advantage I can see, as yet, to
other ways of killing the tumor.
FOCAL CRYO RESULTS
In our practice, we now have clinical data on a total of 70
patients who underwent focal cryo. All have at least 8 years
follow-up (ranging from 8 to 18 years with a mean follow
up of 10.1 years). 41 patients were Gleason 6 or less, 24
were Gleason 7 (6 patients 4+3, 18 patients 3+4) and 5 were
Gleason 8 or greater. 15 patients had a PSA of 10 or greater.
We stratified the 70 patients using the D’Amico system. Thus,
29 patients were low risk, 32 medium risk, and 9 high risk.
TABLE 1: PATIENT DEMOGRAPHICS
Mean 10.1 years
D’Amico Risk level
Gleason 6 or less
Gleason 8 or greater
PSA level at DX
less than 10
greater than 20
Table 1. Risk stratification of patients treated with focal prostate
cryoablation (N = 70)
Overall actuarial survival was 66/70 (94%), meaning 4
patients died from other causes. Disease specific survival
was 64/64(100%), meaning no patients died from prostate
cancer. This is a rather remarkable statistic given that the
majority of patients in this series (41) were medium to high
risk. It certainly illustrates that patients who are appropriate
candidates for focal therapy are not taking a greater risk of
death in choosing this avenue.
Overall Biochemical Disease Free Survival (BDFS, meaning
no rise in PSA) was 89% (62/70). When broken down by risk
level, BDFS for low risk patients was 90% (26/29), for medium
risk patients 88% (28/32) and for high risk patients 89% (8/9).
These again are rather remarkable results. For comparison, a
2012 article by Ginsburg, et al., looking at results of robotic
radical prostatectomy with over 1100 patients had an overall
BDSF of 72% at 5 years (10). See Table 2.
TABLE 2: RESULTS
Overall actuarial survival N=70
Disease specific survival N=70
Biochemical Disease Free Survival
BDFS High Risk (D’Amico)
BDFS Med Risk (D’Amico)
BDFS Low Risk (D’Amico)
Bilateral Multi focal
Local recurrence N=10
Continent after primary procedure
Table 2. Survival and recurrence rates for focal prostate
cryoablation (N = 70)
In my experience in a tertiary referral practice, having
interviewed patients who have already seen surgeons, it is
unusual to encounter a patient who has had explained to him
what a “positive margin” is. For those who are unclear, after
the gland is removed, the cut margins of the gland are stained
and microscopically examined for tumor. If tumor is found at
the cut margin the implication is that there is residual cancer
left in the patient. This is called a positive margin. It leads
to a high rate of disease progression. In Ginsburg’s study
positive margins occurred in 27.3% of patients, which the
authors describe as in keeping with national statistics. Our
results, with selective tumor destruction while preserving
healthy, functional prostate tissue, hold great promise for
patients who might otherwise undergo surgery, with its risks
of short and long term urinary and sexual side effects, only to
experience a rising PSA within years of the treatment.
Why all risk levels of patients would have the same cancer
control results, might have two possible explanations:
1. Focal cryo has an ability to treat extracapsular disease.
Patients at high risk for positive margins at prostatectomy
have a better chance of local control with ablative therapy.
This was very well illustrated by one of our patients who had
a T4 lesion already invading the bladder, a PSA of 200 and a
Gleason score of 10. He is now 8 years out from his cryo with
no evidence for recurrence. We also have used a localized
removal of urethral tissue in some patients who had tumor
next to the urethra, when we were afraid that the urethral
warmer might prevent a completely destructive freeze at that
2. A cryoimmunological response must also be considered for
these remarkable results in medium and high risk patients.
Based on the human and animal data, it’s likely that in some
patients there is exposure of tumor antigens at the time of the
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procedure that acts as an in vivo cancer vaccine, preventing
later metastasis from occurring!
A WORD ABOUT RECURRENCE
Choosing radiation or RP as a first or primary treatment
limits future options. Neither has a good fallback position
should local disease recur. Hormone ablation is not curative,
and the side effects are unpleasant. However, when focal cryo
patients are retreated they do extremely well. The ability to
retreat patients with local recurrences by repeat freezing, or
even RP or radiation, means that our patients have less chance
of untreated local residual cancer that can later spread.
In our series, 10% of patients (7/70) were retreated with
cryo to the opposite side of the original procedure. (In other
words, a second cancer later occurred in previously biopsynegative and therefore untreated tissue.) All 7 (100%) are
biochemical disease free (BDF). Two patients with local
recurrence underwent radiation and both are BDF. One
patient underwent RP and radiation and is now on ADT
(hormone ablation). In total, 14% of patients (10/70) had
a local recurrence that required re-treatment, and 90% of
those 10 patients (9/10) remain BDF.
Bilateral disease (cancer on both sides of the gland at initial
treatment) was not a barrier to successful focal therapy. In
our series, 28.5% (20/70) of patients had bilateral multifocal
disease (more than one tumor location) that required
bilateral cryo. Of those, 95% (19/20) were BDF.
FOCAL CRYO SIDE EFFECTS (MORBIDITY)
The hope for low morbidity associated with focal therapy has
been confirmed by our results. All patients were continent
(with no pads) immediately after the first procedure (100%).
One recurrent patient converted to a second whole gland
freeze, resulting in mild stress incontinence requiring pads
while playing golf. Other authors confirm these continence
As to potency, focal therapy did extremely well. 58/70
patients were potent preoperatively (pretreatment baseline
function). 54/58 (94%) were potent postoperatively with or
without the use of oral agents, to their satisfaction, within
6 months. However, 11 patients were ultimately rendered
impotent by additional treatment (7 by additional cryo, 4 by
a combination of ADT, radiation or radical prostatectomy).
Interestingly, 4/12 preoperatively impotent patients were
potent after the procedure. This was due to the immediate
potency rehab protocol that we provide, if needed. 43/58
patients (74%) therefore ultimately retained potency. Again,
these results are consistent with other focal therapy series.
No other complications were noted. Blood loss was virtually
zero. No rectal fistulas were seen and no patient needed a
Prostate Cancer Communication / Spring 2014 • www.paactusa.org
further procedure for urinary obstruction.
The long term results of focal cryoablation, within the
limitations of our data, is significantly superior to traditional
RP and radiation. Unanticipated is that patients at high risk
for recurrence have a much higher disease free survival than
that reported with robotic RP and with better quality of life.
Repeat treatment for localized recurrence does not appear to
negatively impact patient disease specific or BDF survival,
perhaps accounts for improved results in high and medium
risk patients. Patients treated with bilateral multifocal disease
appear to do as well as those with unilateral tumors. Most
striking, all grades and PSA levels appear to have excellent
results compared to other therapies. When including all risk
levels of disease and bilateral disease, the overwhelming
majority of patients would be eligible for this approach
when appropriately diagnosed, staged, and treated by an
The Male Lumpectomy achieves these results with minimal
morbidity in terms of incontinence and potency. The
safety and long term efficacy of focal cryoablation is now
established, though this is not to say that further study is
not needed. Enough evidence is available, however, that I
would have no qualms about offering this option to qualified
patients. Future investigators now have the data to have a
comfort level to conduct comparative Level One evidence
studies between focal therapy, robotic RP and the various
forms of radiation.
This data also sets the bar high for focal therapy. When
developing this approach, we tried to optimize every step
of the procedure to give us the theoretically best outcomes
possible with our current knowledge. All of the important
aspects of our methods for selecting and performing focal
therapy are supported by Level One data as being the best
way to carry out this mission (3D-PMB for diagnosis and
staging, cryo for the ablation). Since we are dealing with
peoples’ lives, anyone carrying out focal therapy should
adhere to the principles we have outlined in selecting and
performing the procedure. Based on my experience there
will be a plethora of focal therapy methods being touted in
the near future. It’s going to take other investigators another
ten years to figure out if their method can produce the same
results. As a patient, you will be challenged to sort out proven
treatments with a published, peer-reviewed track record vs.
“the latest” innovations without long-term results.
We have been going down the same path with prostate cancer
for so long. Despite the best efforts of urologic surgeons and
radiation therapists to improve the results of their traditional
treatments, little progress has been made in improving
survival and lowering complications. Focal therapy gives us a
new, exciting and hope-filled alternative road to take. It will
be the responsibility of the medical community to thoroughly
compare focal therapy as we have outlined it, honestly and
fairly, with traditional therapies. If this is accomplished I
am confident that we will have embarked on a new era in
prostate cancer management.
(1) Stoyanova T, Cooper A, Drake J et al. Prostate cancer originating in basal cells
progresses to adenocarcinoma propagated by luminal-like cells. Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences, published online Dec. 2013. at http://
(2) Onik GM, Narayan P, Vaughn D, et al. Nerve sparing cryosurgery for the
treatment of primary prostate cancer: a new approach to preserving potency.
Urology. 2002 Jul;60(1):109-14.
(3) Onik, G. Miessau M, Bostwick DG Three-dimensional prostate mapping
biopsy has a potentially significant impact on prostate cancer management. J
Clin Oncol. 2009 Sep 10;27(26):4321-6. 2009 Aug 3.
(4) Delongchamps et al. Multiparametric MRI is helpful to predict tumor
focality, stage, and size in patients diagnosed with unilateral low-risk prostate
cancer. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases (2011) 14, i232–237.
(5) Abd-Alazeez1 A, Kirkham HU, Ahmed M et al. Performance of
multiparametric MRI in men at risk of prostate cancer before the first biopsy:
a paired validating cohort study using template prostate mapping biopsies as
the reference standard. Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease (2013), 1–7.
(6) Singh PB, Anele C, Dalton E, et al. Prostate cancer tumour features on
template prostate-mapping biopsies: Implications for focal therapy. Eur
Urol. 2013 Oct 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=singh+anel
(7) Donnelly BJ, Saliken JC, Brasher, PMA et al. A randomized trial of external
beam radiotherapy versus cryoablation in patients with localized prostate
cancer. Cancer 2010;116:323-330.
(8) Ablin et al. Cryobiology, 8:271, 1971.
(9) Waitzl R, Solomon S, Petre E et al. Potent Induction of Tumor Immunity by
Combining Tumor Cryoablation with Anti–CTLA-4 Therapy. Cancer Res;
72(2) January 15, 2012.
(10)Ginzburg S, Nevers T, Staff I et al. Prostate cancer biochemical recurrence
rates after robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. JSLS
(11)Bahn E, Abreu AL, Gill I et al. Focal cryotherapy for clinically unilateral, lowintermediate risk prostate cancer in 73 men with a median follow-up of 3.7
years. Eur J Urol 2012 July;62(1)55-63.
TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR POSTPROSTATECTOMY INCONTINENCE
GARY E LEACH, MD • DIRECTOR - TOWER UROLOGY INSTITUTE FOR CONTINENCE
TOWER UROLOGY - LOS ANGELES, CA
Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) after prostate
surgery is a devastating complication, which has significant
negative impact on quality of life. The ‘good news’ is that
with appropriate evaluation and treatment, the incontinence
problem is usually treatable with significant improvement in
quality of life.
It is not unusual that lack of bladder control is a problem
for the first few months following radical prostatectomy. A
biofeedback program may be helpful during this time period
to help restore bladder control. When urinary incontinence
persists for more than 3-6 months after radical prostatectomy,
appropriate bladder testing (called urodynamics) is critical
to evaluate the function of the bladder and sphincter
(valve) muscle to determine the exact cause of the postprostatectomy incontinence (ppi). This urodynamic testing
is performed in the office and takes about 20 minutes. The
test involves filling the bladder through a special catheter
inserted in the penis, while measuring the pressures in the
bladder. During the test, various maneuvers are performed
to evaluate the bladder function, demonstrate the urinary
incontinence and thus, specifically, define the cause of the
Normally, as the bladder fills to capacity, there is very little
change in bladder pressure and the sphincter remains closed
allowing the man to stay dry. When incontinence occurs
following prostatectomy, this normal balance of bladder and
sphincter function is disturbed.
Our research has defined three main causes of ppi based upon
1. High pressure (with ‘spasms’ of the bladder) developing in the
bladder as the bladder fills (50% of men with ppi). It is possible
that these bladder spasms are related to nerve damage that may
have occurred as a result of the prostatectomy. These bladder
spasms may cause urge incontinence (the need to rush to get to
the bathroom), frequent urination and sometimes loss of urine
at night. This high pressure bladder dysfunction can also occur
following pelvic radiation therapy. Normally, when the bladder
fills, the bladder pressure remains low without any spasms.
2. Damage to the sphincter muscle (35% of men with ppi). This
damage results in stress incontinence with loss of urine during
change in position, coughing, straining or vigorous physical
www.paactusa.org • Spring 2014 / Prostate Cancer Communication 7