Research Article

Use of tumour marker immunoreactivity to identify primary site of metastatic cancer.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 30 January 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:295
  1. A R Gamble,
  2. J A Bell,
  3. J E Ronan,
  4. D Pearson,
  5. I O Ellis
  1. Department of Histopathology, City Hospital, Nottingham.


    OBJECTIVES--To determine whether variations in the expression of tumour related antigens can predict the origin of tumours. DESIGN--Immunohistological study of tumour marker expression in primary adenocarcinomas and respective metastatic deposits. Antibodies to the following tumour markers were used: polymorphic epithelial mucin (NCRC-11 and SM3), carcinoembryonic antigen, carcinoembryonic antigen with non-specific antigen co-specificity, CA125, CA19.9, prostate specific antigens, and thyroglobulin. SETTING--Histopathology department of teaching hospital. SUBJECTS--100 pathology sections of metastatic adenocarcinoma and their related primary tumours. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Concordance of reactivity between primary and metastatic tumours. Reactivity profiles of tumour sites. RESULTS--The correct primary site of origin was predicted in 70% (33/47) of tumours in men and 54% (27/43) tumours in women with antibodies SM3, 288, CA19.9, CA125, and PSA (men only). Specificities ranged from 68% for breast tumour to 98% for prostate tumour. CONCLUSION--Use of tumour markers in patients presenting with metastatic adenocarcinoma of unknown origin can help localise the probable primary sites and reduce the need for extensive and expensive imaging techniques.