Objective: As circulating chromogranin A (CgA) has been claimed to be the best general neuroendocrine marker so far available, we evaluated the usefulness of CgA determination in the clinical assessment of patients with sporadic gastro-entero-pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP NETs) or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN 1). Design and methods: Plasma CgA levels were measured using a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in 61 patients with sporadic GEP NET and in 25 with MEN 1 including 16 with GEP NET. Controls were 50 healthy volunteers, 46 patients with pituitary adenoma and 35 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism. Results: The cutoff value for CgA established in our healthy subjects (as mean+2 S.D.) was 20 U/1. CgA levels were above the normal range in 71/77 patients with sporadic or MEN 1-related GEP NETs (92%), in four out of nine MEN 1 patients without GEP NETs (44%), and only in 22/81 control patients with pituitary or parathyroid disease (27%). Furthermore, CgA levels of over 100 U/l occurred in 36/77 patients with GEP NETs (47%) and only in one patient with a non-functioning pituitary adenoma. In the patients with GEP NETs, both tumor burden and secretory activity affected CgA levels, and successful surgical resection was associated with markedly decreased CgA values. Conclusions: Plasma CgA was confirmed to be a reliable marker for GEP NETs. Moreover, in MEN 1 patients the finding of very high CgA levels strongly suggests the presence of a GEP NET, as both primary hyperparathyroidism and pituitary adenomas rarely cause marked CgA increases.
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