Refining calcium test for the diagnosis of medullary thyroid cancer: Cutoffs, procedures, and safety

Caterina Mian, Michela Perrino, Carla Colombo, Elisabetta Cavedon, Gianmaria Pennelli, Stefano Ferrero, Simone De Leo, Cristiano Sarais, Chiara Cacciatore, Gloria Irene Manfredi, Uberta Verga, Maurizio Iacobone, Loredana De Pasquale, Maria Rosa Pelizzo, Leonardo Vicentini, Luca Persani, Laura Fugazzola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Calcitonin (CT) measurement is crucial to the early diagnosis and the follow-up of medullary thyroid cancer (MTC). If the evaluation of stimulated CT levels is required, a provocative test can be performed, being the high-dose Ca test recently reintroduced in clinical practice. Objective: Our objective was to identify gender-specific thresholds for MTC diagnosis in a large series of patients who underwent the Ca test. Patients and Methods: A total of 91 patients (49 females and 42 males) underwent the Ca test (calcium gluconate, 25 mg/kg) before thyroidectomy and both basal CT (bCT) and stimulated CT (sCT) were compared with histological results by receiver operating characteristic plot analyses. To evaluate possible side effects of Ca administration, cardiac function has been extensively studied. Results: bCT levels were found to harbor the same accuracy as sCT in the preoperative diagnosis of MTC. The best Ca thresholds for the identification of MTC were26 and68 for bCT and79 and 544 pg/mL for sCT in females and males, respectively. The high tolerability and safety of the Ca test was demonstrated and advice offered to be followed before and during the test. Conclusions: Gender-specific bCT and sCT cutoffs for the identification of C-cell hyperplasia and/or MTC have been defined. The bCT and sCT were found to have a similar accuracy, indicating that serum CT assays with improved functional sensitivity may likely decrease the relevance of the stimulation test in several conditions. Finally, systematic cardiac monitoring confirms the safety of the Ca test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1656-1664
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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