PURPOSE: Reliable cut-offs for basal (bCT) and calcium stimulated calcitonin (casCT) are needed for an early and accurate diagnosis of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC).
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Fifty-four new patients with nodular goiter were enrolled and analysed together with those previously published by our group for a total of 135 cases. bCT and casCT were measured by a highly sensitive method and the results compared with histological findings. In a subgroup of patients, cardiac rhythm was recorded before and during the calcium test.
RESULTS: In both females (F) and males (M), there was a significant correlation between tumor size and bCT levels (P < 0.001). The receiver operating characteristic plot analyses showed that, for bCT, the new cut-off points able to separate non-MTC from MTC patients were > 30 (F) and > 34 pg/mL (M), whereas the best casCT thresholds were > 79 (F) and > 466 pg/mL (M). bCT was shown to harbour a high accuracy, though some cases were diagnosed only upon stimulation test. Importantly, combining bCT, below or above the cut-offs, with casCT above the cut-offs, all the MTC cases were correctly identified. A reversible sinus bradycardia was observed in 9% of cases during the test.
CONCLUSIONS: Refined cut-offs for bCT and casCT in patients with nodular goiter are reported. Sensitive bCT was shown to have a high accuracy, but the combination with casCT data was needed to identify all MTC cases. The reliability and safety of calcium test strongly favour the routine use of CT determination in nodular thyroid disease.