Serum-free light-chain assay: clinical utility and limitations

Ann Clin Biochem. 2014 Sep;51(Pt 5):528-42. doi: 10.1177/0004563213518758. Epub 2014 Jan 31.


In the last decade, the introduction of the serum-free light-chain (sFLC) assay has been an important advance in the diagnosis and management of plasma cell dyscrasias, particularly monoclonal light-chain diseases. The immunoassay was developed to detect free light chains in serum by using anti-FLC antibodies which specifically recognised epitopes on light chains that were 'hidden' in intact immunoglobulins. Since its introduction in 2001, there have been several publications in the English language literature discussing the clinical utility as well as analytical limitations of the sFLC assay. These studies have highlighted both positive and negative aspects of the assay particularly with regard to its sensitivity and specificity and the technical challenges that can affect its performance. The contribution and significance of the sFLC assay in the management of light-chain myeloma, primary amyloid light-chain (AL) amyloidosis and non-secretory myeloma are well recognised and will be addressed in this review. The aim of this article is to also review the published literature with a view to providing a clear understanding of its utility and limitations in the diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of plasma dyscrasias including intact immunoglobulin multiple myeloma (MM) and monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS). The increasing interest in using this assay in other haematological conditions will also be briefly discussed.

Keywords: Laboratory methods; analytical systems; immunoassay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amyloidosis / blood*
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Immunoglobulin Light Chains / blood*
  • Immunoglobulin Light-chain Amyloidosis
  • Multiple Myeloma / blood
  • Nephelometry and Turbidimetry / methods
  • Paraproteinemias / blood*
  • Paraproteinemias / diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Reference Values


  • Immunoglobulin Light Chains