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J Cell Physiol. 2005 Apr;203(1):1-5.

Early diagnosis of lung cancer by detection of tumor liberated protein.

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  • 1Department of Diagnostics, Unit of Molecular Biology, D. Cotugno Hospital, Naples, Italy.


Tumor liberated protein (TLP) is a protein that can be used to reveal the early development of a tumor. Besides being formed in the tumor, TLP is released in the blood when a patient starts producing cancer cells, which in turn enables the physician to intervene at a stage when the cancer is operable. To date, the available studies of tumor markers in lung cancer patients are CEA, NSE, TPA, Chromogranine, CA125, CA19-9, and Cyfra 21-1. The sensitivity and specificity for serum markers ranges between 50 and 90%, depending on the study and the clinical samples analyzed. Most of these markers show an increased rate of positivity as the stage advances. There are very limited data on TLP to draw any firm conclusion regarding the diagnostic value of this marker. TLP has been detected in 53.1% of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients (N = 534) with 75% being positive in the early stage (stage I) and dropping to 45% in the late stage (stage IV). However, 7.6% blood donor sera and 17.4% chronic lung disease sera have also tested positive. In a confirmation study, the specificity was 89.94% and the sensibility was 63.63% from stage III to IV NSCLC patients. In an initial study of TLP as a marker for early detection in stage I, NSCLC patients showed a sensitivity of 66.7% and a specificity of 80% for TLP compared to a sensitivity of 33.3% for CA19-9, 11.1% for Cyfra 21-1 and CA125, and 0% for CEA; the specificity for all four of the latter markers was 100%. Using immunohistochemical analysis with peroxidase anti-peroxidase (PAP), we observed that NSCLC cells were positive; we used the specific rabbit antiserum to TLP, which turned out negative in the presence of 1 mg/ml of the synthetized peptide. The pre-serum was also negative. The same reactivity was found early in the modified epithelial cells of interstitial lung fibrosis and might be a predictive marker of cell transformation. The site of the peroxidase positivity was cytoplasmic, of diffuse and/or granular type.

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