Detection of circulating CEA-IgM complexes in early stage colorectal cancer

F. Castaldi, M. Marino, L. Beneduce, C. Belluco, F. De Marchi, E. Mammano, D. Nitti, M. Lise, Giorgio Fassina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have recently shown that alpha fetoprotein (AFP) and squamous cell carcinoma antigen (SCCA), biomarkers associated with hepatocellular carcinoma, may be detected in patient sera as circulating immune complexes with IgM, and that assessment of serum levels of AFP-IgM and SCCA-IgM may be used for the detection of liver cancer. In this study we measured the levels of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) as free form (FCEA) and complexed to IgMs (CEA-IgM) in sera of patients affected by colorectal carcinoma (CRC) at different stages as well as in healthy subjects. FCEA levels were above the 5 ng/mL cutoff in 43% of CRC patients (31/72) and CEA-IgM levels were above the 200 AU/mL cutoff in 38% of CRC patients (27/72). Serum levels of CEA-IgM immune complexes (IC) and FCEA did not overlap and 64% of patients (46/72) were positive for at least one marker without compromising the detection specificity (94%). Early detection of CRC was significantly improved by CEA-IgM IC assay. CRC patients at an early stage (stage 1) had elevated CEA-IgM levels in 29% of cases (7/24), while FCEA levels were elevated in only 8% of cases (2/24). These results indicate that CEA-IgM is a complementary serological marker to FCEA which is much more sensitive for early stage CRC, and that the combination of these biomarkers may be useful in the early detection of colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-208
Number of pages5
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Markers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • Biomarkers
  • CEA
  • CEA-IgM immune complexes
  • Colon cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology


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