Combined measurements of plasma aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase and DOPA as tumour markers in diagnosis and follow-up of neuroblastoma

Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol. 1989 Jul;25(7):1045-52. doi: 10.1016/0277-5379(89)90386-6.


As neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumour in childhood, may contain all the constituents of the catecholamine biosynthesis cascade, some of these constituents may be produced in excess in a varying mixture reflecting the wide variability in expression of differentiated features of the tumour. We have measured plasma levels of norepinephrine (NE), epinephrine (E), dopamine (DA) and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA), and plasma activities of dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH) and aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase (ALAAD) in 18 patients with neuroblastoma, in 13 at various times during the course of their disease. Activities of serum lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), serum levels of ferritin (FER) and neuron-specific enolase (NSE), and urinary vanilmandelic acid (VMA) were also determined. NE, E and DBH were found not to reflect tumour activity. In untreated active neuroblastoma DOPA or ALAAD (10 out of 10) or both (six out of 10) were clearly elevated. In all 13 patients where samples were obtained during chemotherapy, ALAAD activities fell within the normal range, while DOPA decreased more slowly. During relapse, DOPA and, especially, ALAAD, rapidly increased; in all six patients who had a relapse both DOPA and ALAAD were elevated. In complete remission (eight patients), ALAAD was normal in all patients, but DOPA remained elevated in the one patient who later experienced a relapse. Our preliminary conclusion is that combined measurements of plasma ALAAD and DOPA may be useful markers for neuroblastoma activity at diagnosis, but even more so in indicating residual disease (DOPA) and in the early detection of relapse (ALAAD).

MeSH terms

  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases / blood*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine / blood*
  • Dopa Decarboxylase / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neuroblastoma / blood*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Dihydroxyphenylalanine
  • Dopa Decarboxylase
  • Aromatic-L-Amino-Acid Decarboxylases