Role of Procalcitonin and Interleukin-6 in Predicting Cancer, and Its Progression Independent of Infection

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 6;10(7):e0130999. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0130999. eCollection 2015.


Procalcitonin (PCT) and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) have emerged as biomarkers for different inflammatory conditions. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the role of PCT and IL-6 as biomarkers of cancer and its progression in a large cohort of patients. This cross-sectional study included residual plasma samples collected from cancer patients, and control subjects without cancer. Levels of PCT and IL-6 were determined by Kryptor compact bioanalyzer. We identified 575 febrile cancer patients, 410 non-febrile cancer patients, and 79 non-cancer individuals. The median PCT level was lower in control subjects (0.029 ng/ml) compared to cancer patients with stage I-III disease (0.127 ng/ml) (p<0.0001) and stage IV disease (0.190 ng/ml) (p<0.0001). It was also higher in febrile cancer patients (0.310 ng/ml) compared to non-febrile cancer patients (0.1 ng/ml) (p<0.0001). Median IL-6 level was significantly lower in the control group (0 pg/ml) than in non-febrile cancer patients with stages I-III (7.376 pg/ml) or stage IV (9.635 pg/ml) (p<0.0001). Our results suggest a potential role for PCT and IL-6 in predicting cancer in non-febrile patients. In addition, PCT is useful in detecting progression of cancer and predicting bacteremia or sepsis in febrile cancer patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Calcitonin / physiology*
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / blood
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Protein Precursors / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CALCA protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Protein Precursors
  • Calcitonin
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work, however ThermoFisher Company provided the Kryptor machine and the test kits, but had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.