Grading of prostate cancer has evolved substantially over time, not least because of major changes in diagnostic approach and concomitant shifts from late- to early-stage detection since the adoption of PSA testing from the late 1980s. After the conception of the architecture-based nine-tier Gleason grading system more than 50 years ago, several changes were made in order to increase its prognostic impact, to reduce interobserver variation and to improve concordance between prostate needle biopsy and radical prostatectomy grading. This eventually resulted in the current five-tier grading system, with a much more detailed description of the individual architectural patterns constituting the remaining three Gleason patterns (i.e. grades 3–5). Nevertheless, there is room for improvement. For instance, distinction of common grade 4 subpatterns such as ill-formed and fused glands from the grade 3 pattern is challenging, blurring the division between low-risk patients who could be eligible for deferred therapy and those who need curative therapy. The last few years have witnessed the publication of several studies on the prognostic impact of individual architectural subpatterns showing that, in particular, the cribriform pattern exceeded the prognostic impact of other grade 4 subpatterns. This review provides an overview of the changes in prostate cancer grading over time and provides a thorough description of the various Gleason subpatterns, the current evidence of their prognostic impact and areas of contention. Potential practical ways for improvements of the current grading system are also put forward.

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Department of Pathology

Kweldam, C., Leenders, G., & van der Kwast, T. (T.). (2019). Grading of prostate cancer: a work in progress. Histopathology (Vol. 74, pp. 146–160). doi:10.1111/his.13767