Serum HE4 concentration differentiates malignant ovarian tumours from ovarian endometriotic cysts

Br J Cancer. 2009 Apr 21;100(8):1315-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605011. Epub 2009 Mar 31.


Human epididymal secretory protein E4 (HE4, also known as WAP four-disulphide core domain protein 2) is a new promising biomarker for ovarian cancer but its specificity against ovarian endometriotic cysts is only superficially known. We, thus, analysed serum HE4 concentrations together with a tumour marker CA125 in serum samples of women diagnosed with various types of endometriosis, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer, and in samples from healthy controls. The mean serum concentration of HE4 was significantly higher in serum samples of patients with both endometrial (99.2 pM, P<0.001) and ovarian (1125.4 pM, P<0.001) cancer but not with ovarian endometriomas (46.0 pM) or other types of endometriosis (45.5 pM) as compared with healthy controls (40.5 pM). The serum CA125 concentrations were elevated in patients with ovarian cancer, advanced endometriosis with peritoneal or deep lesions, or ovarian endometriomas, but not in the patients with endometrial cancer. The microarray results revealed that the mRNA expression of the genes encoding HE4 and CA125 reflected the serum protein concentrations. Taken together, measuring both HE4 and CA125 serum concentrations increases the accuracy of ovarian cancer diagnosis and provides valuable information to discriminate ovarian tumours from ovarian endometriotic cysts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • CA-125 Antigen / blood*
  • CA-125 Antigen / genetics
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / blood*
  • Endometriosis / blood*
  • Epididymal Secretory Proteins / genetics
  • Epididymal Secretory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Cysts / blood*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • beta-Defensins


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen
  • DEFB126 protein, human
  • Epididymal Secretory Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • beta-Defensins