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Int J Biol Markers. 1990 Jul-Sep;5(3):121-6.

AFP, CEA, CA 19-9 and TPA in hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Nuclear Medicine Institute, University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Roma, Italy.


The present study is based on the assay of four markers (AFP, CEA, TPA, Ca 19-9) using IRMA methods in 36 normal subjects, 44 cirrhosis and 66 HCC patients. Parametric and non parametric tests were used to test differences and correlations. ROC curves and discriminant functions were also elaborated. Normal 95% "cut-off" was determined by the "boostrap" method yielding: CEA 3.4 ng/ml; Ca 19-9 55 U/ml; TPA 58U/l and AFP 5.2 ng/ml. In HCC patients the values of the four markers were, on average, significantly different from those of normal subjects. However, only AFP and TPA exhibited high diagnostic accuracy (90%) for detection of the tumor. Higher than normal mean values for all markers were, also observed in cirrhotic patients. Only AFP yielded effective discrimination between HCC and cirrhosis. The positive prediction for the presence of the tumor on cirrhotic ground was 95% for AFP values higher than 18.5 ng/ml, with a 78% negative predictive value with a 6 ng/ml threshold. Association of AFP with TPA showed only a marginal diagnostic improvement. Results were not improved at all by combining CEA and Ca 19-9 with AFP and/or TPA. In conclusion, AFP is and remains the best marker for HCC and the only one effective in discriminating of HCC from cirrhosis. TPA may be considered a valid alternative if cirrhosis is not present. CEA and Ca19-9 are of no use.

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