Kinetics of CEA and CA15-3 correlate with treatment response in patients undergoing chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer (MBC)

Tumour Biol. 2011 Aug;32(4):777-85. doi: 10.1007/s13277-011-0180-7. Epub 2011 May 8.


The aim of this retrospective analysis is to determine the correlation between tumour marker kinetics (TMK) like carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and/or cancer antigen (CA) 15-3 and imaging concerning effectiveness of chemotherapy in metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients. TMK (CEA, AxSYM, Abbott; CA15-3, Elecsys, Roche) were evaluated in MBC patients (n=77) at the beginning of chemotherapy (pre-treatment value=A), after 20-30 days (first intermediate value=B), after 40-60 days (second intermediate value=C) and at the time the effectiveness of chemotherapy was evaluated with imaging (D). Response to treatment was assessed by standard WHO criteria criteria. For the assessment of biochemical progression and response, four criteria based on TMK were established. The first criterion of progression required that there was an increase ≥ 25% after 40-60 days (C) and the slope per day from B to C exceeds the slope from A to B. The second criterion of progression required that, at the time of staging, the value be ≥ 25% of the pre-treatment value (A), and also, increasing values from C until staging (D) were required. The first criterion of response required that the second intermediate value (C) be decreased by ≥ 25% compared to A (pre-treatment value) and C be lower than B (first intermediate value). The second criterion of response required that D be ≤ 25% of B and D be lower than C. Fifty-four (70%) patients showed a correlation between TMK and imaging results during chemotherapy. In 10 (13%) patients, no correlation was obtained, and in 13 (17%) patients, no biochemical statement was possible because of divergent TMK. In summary, after 1 month, no statement about treatment response was possible by using TMK. The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of treatment could be determined correctly in 40% of patients after 2 months and in 70% of patients after approximately 3 months. The data presented support the hypothesis that TMK are clinically relevant tools to monitor treatment response. Further improvements on their sensitivity can be probably achieved by a prospective study design and by combining with other biomarkers like CA-125 and HER2 shed antigen.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / analysis
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucin-1 / analysis
  • Mucin-1 / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carcinoembryonic Antigen
  • Mucin-1