Serological thymidine kinase 1 is a biomarker for early detection of tumours--a health screening study on 35,365 people, using a sensitive chemiluminescent dot blot assay

Sensors (Basel). 2011;11(12):11064-80. doi: 10.3390/s111211064. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Serological thymidine kinase 1 (STK1) is a reliable proliferation marker for prognosis, monitoring tumour therapy, and relapse. Here we investigated the use of STK1 in health screening for early detection of pre-malignant and malignant diseases. The investigation was based on 35,365 participants in four independent health screening studies in China between 2005-2011. All participants were clinically examined. The concentration of STK1 was determined by a sensitive chemiluminescent dot blot ECL assay. The ROCvalue of the STK1 assay was 0.96. At a cut-off STK1 value of 2.0 pM, the likelihood (+) value was 236.5, and the sensitivity and the specificity were 0.78 and 0.99, respectively. The relative number of city-dwelling people with elevated STK1 values (≥2.0 pM) was 0.8% (198/26,484), while the corresponding value for the group of oil-field workers was 5.8% (514/8,355). The latter group expressed significantly higher frequency of refractory anaemia, fatty liver, and obesity, compared to the city dwellers, but no cases of breast hyperplasia or prostate hyperplasia. Furthermore, people working in oil drilling/oil transportation showed higher STK1 values and higher frequency of pre-malignancies and benign diseases than people working in the oil-field administration. In the STK1 elevated group of the city-dwelling people, a statistically significantly higher number of people were found to have malignancies, pre-malignancies of all types, moderate/severe type of hyperplasia of breast or prostate, or refractory anaemia, or to be at high risk for hepatitis B, compared to people with normal STK1 values (<2.0 pM). No malignancies were found in the normal STK1 group. In the elevated STK1 group 85.4% showed diseases linked to a higher risk for pre-/early cancerous progression, compared to 52.4% of those with normal STK1 values. Among participants with elevated STK1 values, 8.8% developed new malignancies or progress in their pre-malignancies within 5 to 72 months, compared to 0.2% among people with normal STK1 values. People who showed elevated STK1 values were at about three to five times higher risk to develop malignancies compared to a calculated risk based on a cancer incidence rate of 0.2-0.3%. We conclude that serological TK1 protein concentration is a reliable marker for risk assessment of pre/early cancerous progression.

Keywords: biomarker; health screening; malignancy; pre-malignancy; thymidine kinase 1; tumour marker.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • China
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Luminescence
  • Mass Screening*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thymidine Kinase / blood*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • thymidine kinase 1