Serum levels of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) were measured by radioimmunoassay in 35 patients affected by various histological types of thyroid carcinoma: 9 papillary, 7 follicular, 4 undifferentiated, 15 medullary. All patients with nonmedullary thyroid carcinoma were studied preoperatively. No patient with follicular thyroid carcinoma showed CEA levels above normal limits (<0,5-10 ng/ml). Only 1 out of 9 patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma showed marginally elevated CEA levels (13 ng/ml). Of 4 patients with undifferentiated thyroid carcinoma 1 had high CEA levels (39 ng/ml) and 2 marginally elevated levels (12-13 ng/ml). High CEA levels (>320 ng/ml) were found in 2 of the 4 patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma studied before treatment and in the 4 patients (>320->320- 23-15 ng/ml) studied after total thyroidectomy alone; 3 of them had distant metastases. High levels (65-50-13 ng/ml) were also found in 3 other patients without metastases studied after total thyroidectomy plus radiotherapy. Thyroidectomy plus radiotherapy rapidly decreased CEA levels (from >320 to 20 ng/ml) in a patient without metastases, while the same treatment failed to reduce CEA levels consistently (from > 320 to 112 ng/ml) in a patient with distant metastases. The data suggest than high levels of CEA are frequent but not constant in patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma; in other histological types CEA is present only in sporadic cases. Since in the positive cases of medullary thyroid carcinoma CEA levels seem to be related to the effectiveness of the therapy, CEA assay may be useful in the management and follow up of this tumour.
- carcinoembryonic antigen
- medullary carcinoma
- Thyroid cancer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism