Clinical Oncology/Epidemiology

Utility of C-erbB-2 in tissue and in serum in the early diagnosis of recurrence in breast cancer patients: comparison with carcinoembryonic antigen and CA 15.3

Abstract

To evaluate the utility of c-erbB-2, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 15.3 in the early diagnosis of recurrence, serial serum determinations of these antigens were performed in 200 patients (follow-up 1-4 years, mean 2.2 years) with primary breast cancer and no evidence of residual disease (NED) after radical treatment (radical mastectomy or simple mastectomy and radiotherapy). Eighty-nine patients developed metastases during follow-up. C-erbB-2, CEA and CA 15.3 were elevated (> 20 U ml-1, > 10 ng ml-1 or > 60 U ml-1 respectively) before diagnosis in 28%, 30% and 47% of the 89 patients with recurrence, with a lead time of 4.5 +/- 2.4, 4.9 +/- 2.4 and 4.8 +/- 2.4 months respectively. Tumour marker sensitivity was clearly related to the site of recurrence, with the lowest sensitivity found in locoregional relapse and the highest in patients with liver metastases. When patients with locoregional recurrences were excluded, sensitivity improved: 31% (c-erbB-2), 33% (CEA) and 56% (CA 15.3), with 76% having at least one of the three tumour markers. C-erbB-2 sensitivity in early diagnosis was significantly higher in patients with c-erbB-2 overexpression in tissue (8/10, 80%) than in those without overexpression (1/30, 3.3%) (P = 0.0001). Likewise, higher levels of both, c-erbB-2 and CA 15.3 at diagnosis of recurrence, higher sensitivity in early diagnosis of relapse and a higher lead time were found in PR+ patients (CA 15.3, P < 0.0001) or in PR- patients (c-erbB-2, P = 0.009). Specificity of the tumour markers was 100% for all three markers (111 NED patients). In conclusion, c-erbB-2 is a useful tool for early diagnosis of metastases, mainly in those patients with c-erbB-2 overexpression in tissue. Using all three markers simultaneously it is possible to increase the sensitivity in the early diagnosis of recurrence by 11.2%.

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Molina, R., Jo, J., Zanón, G. et al. Utility of C-erbB-2 in tissue and in serum in the early diagnosis of recurrence in breast cancer patients: comparison with carcinoembryonic antigen and CA 15.3. Br J Cancer 74, 1126–1131 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1038/bjc.1996.501

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