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A phase I/II study was done to evaluate the efficacy and complications of salvage cryotherapy as a treatment for locally recurrent prostate cancer following full dose radiation therapy and/or systemic therapy. The efficacy of single and double freeze-thaw cycles was compared using posttreatment prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels and prostate biopsies as end points.

Materials and Methods:

A total of 150 patients with locally recurrent prostate cancer following radiation, hormonal therapy and/or systemic chemotherapy underwent salvage cryotherapy using a single (71 men, mean followup 17.3 months) or double (79 men, mean followup 10.0 months) freeze-thaw cycle. PSA was measured approximately every 3 months postoperatively and sextant biopsies were repeated 6 months postoperatively. Complications were assessed by retrospective chart review and a mailed quality of life survey.


Overall, 45 patients (31%) had persistently undetectable PSA. Patients with a history of radiation therapy only who underwent a double freeze-thaw cycle had a higher negative biopsy rate (93 versus 71%, p <0.02) and lower biochemical failure rate (defined as an increase in serum PSA of 0.2 ng./ml. above the nadir value, 44 versus 65%, p <0.03) than those who underwent a single freeze-thaw cycle. The main complications of salvage cryotherapy were urinary incontinence (73% of the patients), obstructive symptoms (67%), impotence (72%) and severe perineal pain (8%).


Salvage cryotherapy impacts local tumor control as evident by the high frequency of negative posttreatment biopsies. A double freeze-thaw cycle appears more effective than a single cycle. Like salvage prostatectomy, salvage cryotherapy causes significant morbidity.


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Department of Urology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas