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April 1, 1974

Serial Carcinoembryonic Antigen Assays: Use in Detection of Cancer Recurrence

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery (Drs. Sugarbaker and Moore), Harvard Medical School and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and the Mallory Gastrointestinal and Thorndike Memorial Laboratories, Harvard Medical Unit, Boston City Hospital, the Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and the Department of Pathology, Boston University School of Medicine (Drs. Sorokin, Zamcheck, Pisick, and Kupchik), Boston.

JAMA. 1974;228(1):49-53. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230260023017

A prospective study of 102 patients who had undergone potentially curative operations for colorectal cancer was undertaken to correlate serial carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) levels with the clinical course. When included in this study, patients selected had no detectable metastatic or recurrent disease. Twelve patients developed sustained elevations in their CEA levels greater than 2.5 ng/ml. Six of these had progressively rising CEA titers, and all developed subsequently recurrent cancer; rising CEA levels were observed 0 to 29 months before cancer recurrence was clinically detected. The six with "stable" elevations and six with transient elevations developed no clinically detectable cancer. Eighty-four patients with CEA levels consistently under 2.5 ng/ml had no evidence of recurrent neoplasms. Two developed second primaries. Serial CEA assays postoperatively help detect recurrent colon cancer in asymptomatic patients. (JAMA 228:49-53, 1974)