Carcinoembryonic antigen immunoscintigraphy complements mammography in the diagnosis of breast carcinoma

Cancer. 2000 Jul 1;89(1):104-15.


Background: An adjunctive noninvasive test that is predictable and highly specific for breast carcinoma would complement the high false-positive rate of mammography in certain patients.

Methods: This prospective, multicenter study evaluated the accuracy, safety, and immunogenicity of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) antibody imaging in women with known or suspected breast carcinoma. Scintigraphic breast images were obtained approximately 3-8 hours after the administration of technetium 99m ((99)Tc) labeled anti-CEA Fab' and correlated with histopathology.

Results: The (99)Tc labeled anti-CEA Fab' detected tumor CEA expression in 46 of 49 women (94%) initially entered with known primary breast carcinoma regardless of histology or serum CEA levels. In women scheduled for biopsy confirmation of mammographic and physical examination findings, 104 (99)Tc labeled anti-CEA Fab' studies had a sensitivity of 61% (17 of 28 cases) and a specificity of 91% (69 of 76 cases). In total, (99)Tc labeled anti-CEA Fab' detected 52 of 62 invasive ductal carcinomas, 5 of 5 invasive lobular carcinomas, and 3 of 6 noninvasive tumors (2 ductal carcinomas in situ and 1 intracystic papillary carcinoma). Tumor size significantly affected sensitivity (P = 0.041), with 11 of 14 missed lesions </= T1, and proliferative histology significantly affected specificity (P = 0.012), with 5 of 7 false-positive tumors being premalignant. In 50 breast carcinoma patients, (99)Tc labeled anti-CEA Fab' also demonstrated axillary lymph node involvement regardless of serum CEA levels, with a sensitivity of 80% when more than three lymph nodes were positive. No immune response or other meaningful side effects occurred.

Conclusions: (99)Tc labeled anti-CEA Fab' had high specificity and positive predictive values for breast carcinoma and the majority of false-positive studies were associated with an increased risk of malignancy. Improved imaging techniques, including dedicated gamma cameras for breast and axillary lymph node imaging, will likely improve the test's sensitivity for smaller lesions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Intraductal, Noninfiltrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Papillary / diagnostic imaging
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Mammography*
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radioimmunodetection*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Technetium


  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Technetium