Clinical utility of biochemical markers in colorectal cancer: European Group on Tumour Markers (EGTM) guidelines

Eur J Cancer. 2003 Apr;39(6):718-27. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(02)00811-0.


In recent years, numerous serum and cell/tissue-based markers have been described for colorectal cancer (CRC). The aim of this article was to provide guidelines for the routine clinical use of some of these markers. Lack of sensitivity and specificity preclude the use of any available serum markers such as carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), CA 19-9, CA 242, CA 72-4, tissue polypeptide antigen (TPA) or tissue polypeptide-specific antigen (TPS) for the early detection of CRC. However, preoperative measurement of CEA is desirable as this may give independent prognostic information, help with surgical management and provide a baseline level for subsequent determinations. For patients with stage 2 (Dukes' B) and 3 (Dukes' C) disease who may be candidates for liver resection, CEA levels should be measured every 2-3 months for at least 3 years after diagnosis. For monitoring treatment of advanced disease, CEA should also be tested every 2-3 months. Insufficient evidence is presently available to recommend the routine use of other serum markers for monitoring purposes. Similarly, the new cell and tissue-based markers (e.g, ras, P53) cannot yet be recommended for routine clinical use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate / blood
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prognosis
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1 / blood


  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA 242 antigen
  • CA-19-9 Antigen
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-1