My guy, Dr. Jason Engel with George Washington University in DC, has done hundreds (thousands?) of robotic assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomies (RALPs). He runs a Fellowship at GWU and does a lot of writing and reporting of results. He has recently written a paper about
his high-risk guys (including me). He gave me a copy.
His paper says RALP was approved by the FDA in 2001, and in 2008 there were 73,000 RALPs worldwide. Also, "There is a concern about the use of RALP due to lack of tactile feedback which would be particularly relevant for high-risk prostate cancer. Therefore, we evaluated the feasibility of RALP as primary, unimodal therapy in high-risk cancer patients."
He considered high-risk to be PSA > 10, and/or Gleason >8 on final pathology report, and/or stage pT3. (All of these are "greater than or equal to.") He had 73 subjects (53 white, 18 black, 2 other), all of who had no previous medical treatment for prostate cancer. The mean age was 61 (range 52 to 74). They underwent "bilateral nerve sparing, non-salavge RALP by a single surgeon without adjuvant or neoadjuvant therapy of any kind."
He has tracked these guys for up to 85 months (average 23 months), and he reports that "biochemical recurrence free survival was 77%." Biochemical recurrance was defined as PSA >0.2. Average time to recurrance was 7.7 months. Recurrance was "significantly associated with (a) higher pathological Gleason score" but not pathological stage or preoperative PSA.
So what he is saying is that if you are a high-risk patient and have a RALP, you have a 77% of non-recurrance, at least thru 2 years. And it probably gets statistically better the further away from the 7-8 month average recurrance mark you get. Once again, these are just his stats - and in my opinion it is a pretty small sample.
The sad part is, and my medical scientist wife supported him on this, that he can't get his paper published. Journals are run by editors. Editors have boards of doctors that review articles. If the editor likes your article, he will send it to doctors who will review it favorably. If the editor does not like your article, he sends it to doctors who will kill it. open surgeons hate these articles, and it actually takes business away from radiologists. (Adjuvant radiation is "pre-emptive" radiation given after surgery whether you need it or not. If he is saying "I have proof that you don't need adjuvant radiation" then it takes business away from radiologists.)
Of course, doctors write self-serving papers all the time (shocking!) and this paper is very pro-RALP. He said if nothing else, he will eventually post it on his website (http://www.dcurology.net/engel.html) and it might get published in the robotic surgery journal (whatever that name was). He was frustrated that he wrote a paper some years ago trying to tell new surgeons how to be better robotic surgeons (everybody does not NEED to re-invent the wheel) and he had difficulty getting that published also.
Surgery is not the answer for everybody in every case. I just wanted to get this info out there. Hopefully other robotic surgeons are having the same results.