A Comparative Study of Four Serological Tumor Markers for the Detection of Breast Cancer

Shawn R. Clinton, University of Southern Mississippi
Kevin L. Beason, University of Southern Mississippi
Sabrina Bryant, University of Southern Mississippi
James T. Johnson, University of Southern Mississippi
Margaret Jackson, Univeristy of Southern Mississippi
Cynthia Wilson, University of Mississippi Medical Center
Kay Holifield, Laurel Clinic for Women
Charlton Vincent, Laurel Clinic for Women
Margot Hall, University of Southern Mississippi


Breast cancer is currently the third most common cause of cancer in the world. Circulating tumor antigens are often used as a minimally invasive tool for noting breast cancer progression. The objective of this study was to compare four tumor antigens (CA 15-3, CA 27.29, alpha-fetoprotein [AFP], and carcinoembryonic antigen [CEA]) for their diagnostic efficacy in breast cancer patients. It was hypothesized that CA 15-3 would prove to be superior to CA 27.29, CEA, and AFP in assay performance. Tumor marker assays were performed according to the manufacturers' directions. Assays used in this study were CA 15-3 and CA 27.29 (Fujirebio Diagnostics/Centocor Inc.), AFP (Abbott Inc.), and CEA (Hybritech Inc.) A total of 554 patient samples were obtained from an area hospital, plus 200 healthy adult samples which were used for the determination of normal reference intervals. The patients included patients with no disease (184), with non-malignant disease (11), with breast cancer (87), and with other types of cancer (272). Diagnostic percent sensitivities for each marker were: CA 15-3 (63%), CA 27.29 (39%), CEA (22&), and AFP (22%). Diagnostic percent sensitivities for each marker were: CA 15-3 (63%), CA 27.29% (39%), CEA (22%), and AFP (22%), and AFP (22%). Diagnostic specificities for each marker were comparable, ranging from 80-88%. Analytical parameters were evaluated for the assays and compared favorably. We concluded that CA 15-3 was the best tumor antigen for use as a diagnostic aid and monitoring agent.