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J Surg Oncol. 1989 Feb;40(2):112-8.

Assessment of serial carcinoembryonic antigen: determinations to monitor the therapeutic progress and prognosis of metastatic liver disease treated by regional chemotherapy.

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Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg, West Germany.


It is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy of regional chemotherapy of metastatic liver disease by means of imaging procedures. Therefore it was the aim of this study to find out whether serial carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) determinations yield reliable data on the therapeutic progress and the individual prognosis of these patients. Since there exists no generally accepted modality to assess CEA curves of patients receiving chemotherapy, we developed our own criterion and tested it in a group of 35 patients. For each patient an individual reference level (CEA-means) was fixed which was obtained as the arithmetical mean of serial CEA values taken during the first three courses of chemotherapy (reference time). On the basis of CEA-means the marker curves of the 35 patients could be divided into two groups. After the reference time the CEA values of group 1 (12 patients) never decreased below CEA-means. Survival of these patients was significantly (P = 0.00001) shorter than that of the 23 patients (group 2) who showed a decrease in their CEA curves below CEA-means after the reference time. Beyond this it could be observed that the improvement in survival was significantly greater in those patients who showed a CEA decrease below CEA-means for a prolonged period (3 months). This difference in prognosis is not an artefact due to different pretherapeutic conditions but is a sign of different responses to therapy. The decrease in CEA values below the individual reference level (CEA-means) is a certain sign of the efficacy of the chosen chemotherapy. A continuous rise of the CEA curve above CEA-means signifies an ineffective intrahepatic chemotherapy or extrahepatic tumor manifestation. In this case an intensive diagnostic workup of the patient and possibly a modification of the therapy are indicated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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