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Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2014;15(8):3451-5.

Analysis of CEA expression and EGFR mutation status in non-small cell lung cancers.

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Key Laboratory of Bio-resources and Eco-environment, Ministry of Education, Institute of Genetics Medical, College of Life Science, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China E-mail :



The serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level can reflect tumor growth, recurrence and metastasis. It has been reported that epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations in exons 19 and 21 may have an important relationship with tumor cell sensitivity to EGFR -TKI therapy. In this study, we investigated the clinical value of EGFR mutations and serum CEA in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).


The presence of mutations in EGFR exons 19 and 21 in the tissue samples of 315 patients with NSCLC was detected with real-time fluorescent PCR technology, while the serum CEA level in cases who had not yet undergone surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy were assessed by electrochemical luminescence.


The mutation rates in EGFR exons 19 and 21 were 23.2% and 14.9%, respectively, with the two combined in 3.81%. Measured prior to the start of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted treatment, serum CEA levels were abnormally high in 54.3% of the patients. In those with a serum CEA level <5 ng/mL, the EGFR mutation rate was 18.8%, while with 5~19 ng/mL and ≥ 20 ng/mL, the rates were 36.4% and 62.5%. In addition, in the cohort of patients with the CEA level being 20~49 ng/mL, the EGFR mutation rate was 85.7%, while in those with the CEA level ≥ 50 ng/mL, the EGFR mutation rate was only 20.0%, approximately the same as in cases with the CEA level<5 ng/mL.


There is a positive correlation between serum CEA expression level and EGFR mutation status in NSCLC patients, namely the EGFR mutation-positive rate increases as the serum CEA expression level rises within a certain range (≥ 20 ng/mL, especially 20~49 ng/mL). If patient samples are not suitable for EGFR mutation testing, or cannot be obtained at all, testing serum CEA levels might be a simple and easy screening method. Hence, for the NSCLC patients with high serum CEA level (≥ 20 ng/mL, especially 20~49 ng/mL), it is worthy of attempting EGFR-TKI treatment, which may achieve better clinical efficacy and quality of life.

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