Correlation Between Preoperative Serum Carcinoembryonic Antigen Levels and Expression on Pancreatic and Rectal Cancer Tissue.

Boogerd LSF, Vuijk FA, Hoogstins CES, Handgraaf HJM, van der Valk MJM, Kuppen PJK, Sier CFM, van de Velde CJH, Burggraaf J, Fariña-Sarasqueta A, Vahrmeijer AL

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)-targeted imaging and therapeutic agents are being tested in clinical trials. If CEA overexpression in malignant tissue corresponds with elevated serum CEA, serum CEA could assist in selecting patients who may benefit from CEA-targeted agents. This study aims to assess the relationship between serum CEA and CEA expression in pancreatic (n = 20) and rectal cancer tissues (n = 35) using histopathology. According to local laboratory standards, a serum CEA >3 ng/mL was considered elevated. In pancreatic cancer patients a significant correlation between serum CEA and percentage of CEA-expressing tumor cells was observed ( = .04, ρ = .47). All 6 patients with homogeneous CEA expression in the tumor had a serum CEA >3 ng/mL. Most rectal cancer tissues (32/35) showed homogeneous CEA expression, independent of serum CEA levels. This study suggests that selection of pancreatic cancer patients for CEA-targeted agents via serum CEA appears adequate. For selection of rectal cancer patients, serum CEA levels are not informative.