Human chorionic gonadotropin in cancer

Clin Biochem. 2004 Jul;37(7):549-61. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2004.05.008.


Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is mainly used for detection and monitoring of pregnancy and pregnancy-related disorders but it is also an extremely sensitive and specific marker for trophoblastic tumors of placental and germ cell origin. Thus treatment of relapsing choriocarcinomas and testicular germ cell tumors is often initiated on the basis of rising hCG levels even in the absence of clinical or histological evidence of a relapse. While these tumors mostly produce the intact heterodimeric hormone consisting of an alpha (hCGalpha), and a beta subunit (hCGbeta), many nontrophoblastic tumors produce only hCGbeta This is usually a sign of aggressive disease and elevated serum levels of hCGbeta are strongly associated with poor prognosis. Elevated serum levels are observed in 45-60% of patients with biliary and pancreatic cancer and in 10-30% of most other cancers. Methods that detect hCG and hCGbeta together are mainly used for measurement of hCG-like immunoreactivity in serum. However, the reference range for hCG is 5-8 fold higher than that for hCGbeta and thus moderately elevated levels can be identified only with a specific and sensitive hCGbeta assay.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms / blood
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Biliary Tract Neoplasms / pathology
  • Calibration / standards
  • Choriocarcinoma / blood
  • Choriocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Choriocarcinoma / pathology
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / blood*
  • Chorionic Gonadotropin / chemistry
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Germinoma / blood
  • Germinoma / diagnosis
  • Germinoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay
  • Male
  • Molecular Weight
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / urine
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Reference Standards
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Testicular Neoplasms / blood
  • Testicular Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology
  • Trophoblastic Neoplasms / blood
  • Trophoblastic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Trophoblastic Neoplasms / pathology


  • Chorionic Gonadotropin