Serial serum thyroglobulin (Tg) measurements with a highly sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; functional sensitivity 0.03 ng/mL) in 126 patients (Tg autoantibody negative) with treated differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC) are described. At the beginning of the retrospective study, all 126 patients were in remission and Tg was detectable by ELISA in 92 (73%; range, 0.03-0.8 ng/mL). Over the following 4-year period, Tg levels remained essentially unchanged (i.e., any increases were less than 2 times the Tg level at the start of the study) in 121 of 126 (96%) and all 121 patients remained well. In 5 patients, Tg levels increased to more than 2 times the starting Tg level over the study period and in 4 of these 5, there was recurrence of DTC. The fifth patient in this group remains well as evidenced by extensive diagnostic imaging, although his serum Tg level continues to increase and can be stimulated by thyrotropin (TSH). Our results suggest that serial measurements of low levels of Tg by ELISA in treated patients with DTC enable detection of recurrence (without using TSH stimulation) 6-12 months earlier than would have been possible using a conventional Tg immuno-radiometric assay (IRMA). A prospective study is now needed to confirm these observations.