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Cancers (Basel). 2011 May 11;3(2):2302-15. doi: 10.3390/cancers3022302.

The Role of High Frequency Dynamic Threshold (HiDT) Serum Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) Measurements in Colorectal Cancer Surveillance: A (Revisited) Hypothesis Paper.

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Department of Surgery, Catharina Hospital Eindhoven, Michelangelolaan 2, 5623 EJ Eindhoven, the Netherlands.


Following curative treatment for colorectal cancer (CRC), 30% to 50% of patients will develop recurrent disease. For CRC there are several lines of evidence supporting the hypothesis that early detection of metachronous disease offers a second opportunity for cure. This paper revisits the potential role of serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) in follow-up. A comprehensive review of the literature (1978-2008) demonstrates that the initial promise of serum CEA as an effective surveillance tool has been tarnished through perpetuation of poorly designed studies. Specific limitations included: testing CEA as only an 'add-on' diagnostic tool; lack of standardization of threshold values; use of static thresholds; too low measurement frequency. Major changes in localizing imaging techniques and treatment of metastatic CRC further cause a decrease of clinical applicability of past trial outcomes. In 1982, Staab hypothesized that the optimal benefit of serum CEA as a surveillance tool is through high-frequency triage using a dynamic threshold (HiDT). Evidence supporting this hypothesis was found in the biochemical characteristics of serum CEA and retrospective studies showing the superior predictive value of a dynamic threshold. A multi-centred randomized phase III study optimizing the usage of HiDT against resectability of recurrent disease is commencing recruitment in the Netherlands.

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