How tumor markers are used in the routine follow-up of breast and colorectal cancer. A survey of 29 Italian hospitals

M. Gion, P. Barioli, A. Ponti, V. Torri, R. Mione, R. Dittadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The impact of tumor markers on the outcome of several malignancies is still under debate. This relative uncertainty leads to a subjective approach to their use. Monitoring the use of tumor markers is a valuable tool to identify the need for educational policies. We conducted a survey to evaluate how tumor markers are routinely used in the follow-up of patients with breast, colorectal and ovarian carcinoma. The former two malignancies are considered in the present paper. We surveyed 35 Italian hospitals; 29 (83%, accounting for 26,622 hospital beds) filled in and returned the questionnaire. Overall, 467,361 tumor marker requests were scrutinized by the surveyed hospitals. We found a wide variability in the type and number of routinely used markers, the cutoff points chosen, and the clinical decisions taken on the basis of marker results. In addition, we observed a relative lack of communication between clinicians and clinical pathologists in around 50% of the surveyed hospitals. In these cases clinical information was not provided to the laboratory and methodological aspects were not communicated to clinicians. From the findings of the present study we conclude that the cooperation between clinicians and clinical pathologists must improve before guidelines for the use of tumor markers assays can be framed and the compliance with these guidelines can be checked. Request forms for tumor marker assays should therefore be designed to contain clinical information and the quality of filling in request forms with clinical data should be carefully monitored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-138
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Markers
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Appropriateness
  • Clinical guidelines
  • Test request
  • Tumor markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology


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