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Clin Chim Acta. 2004 Nov;349(1-2):1-13.

Advances in the clinical laboratory detection of gestational trophoblastic disease.

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Department of Reproductive Medicine, Chiba University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-8-1 Inohana, Chuo, Chiba 260-8670, Japan.



Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) consists of a spectrum of disorders that are characterized by an abnormal proliferation of trophoblastic tissue. Gestational trophoblastic neoplasia (GTN) refers to a subset of GTD with a persistently elevated serum hCG in the absence of a normal pregnancy and with a history of normal or abnormal pregnancy. Although previously a lethal disease, GTN is considered today the most curable gynecologic cancer. However, a delay in the diagnosis may increase the patient's risk of developing malignant GTN, and therefore the prompt identification of GTN is important.


hCG test is essential for detection of GTN. It has emerged that there are problems with hCG tests. In addition to regular hCG, at least five major variants of hCG are present in serum samples. False-positive hCG (phantom hCG) can occur in the absence of GTN. Low-level real hCG may occasionally persist in the absence of clinical evidence of pregnancy or GTD. Alternatively, low-level real hCG may be due to pituitary hCG. Other placental hormones, human placental lactogen (hPL), inhibin and activin, and progesterone have also been evaluated as tumor markers for GTD.


hCG has high diagnostic sensitivity, approaching 100% sensitivity, for managing the treatment of GTN and for detecting recurrences of disease. It is recommended to use hCG test that recognizes all forms of the hCG molecule. In cases where low-level hCG persists, it must be differentiated whether it is real or false. Real-hCG may be due to quiescent gestational trophoblastic disease or pituitary hCG. It has not yet been established whether measurement of markers other than hCG (hPL, inhibin, activin, and progesterone) is useful in the detection and follow-up of GTD.

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