CA 19-9: Biochemical and Clinical Aspects

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015:867:247-60. doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-7215-0_15.


CA19-9 (carbohydrate antigen 19-9, also called cancer antigen 19-9 or sialylated Lewis a antigen) is the most commonly used and best validated serum tumor marker for pancreatic cancer diagnosis in symptomatic patients and for monitoring therapy in patients with pancreatic adenocarcinoma. Normally synthesized by normal human pancreatic and biliary ductal cells and by gastric, colon, endometrial and salivary epithelia, CA 19-9 is present in small amounts in serum, and can be over expressed in several benign gastrointestinal disorders. Importantly, it exhibits a dramatic increase in its plasmatic levels during neoplastic disease. However, several critical aspects for its clinical use, such as false negative results in subjects with Lewis (a-b-) genotype and false positive elevation, occasional and transient, in patients with benign diseases, together with its poor positive predictive value (72.3 %), do not make it a good cancer-specific marker and renders it impotent as a screening tool. In the last years a large number of putative biomarkers for pancreatic cancer have been proposed, most of which is lacking of large scale validation. In addition, none of these has showed to possess the requisite sensitivity/specificity to be introduced in clinical use. Therefore, although with important limitations we well-know, CA 19-9 continues being the only pancreatic cancer marker actually in clinical use.

Keywords: Biomarker; CA 19-9; CA 19-9 biochemical structure; CA 19-9 measurement; Clinical interferences; DUPAN-2; Follow-up pancreatic cancer; K-ras; MIC-1; Methodological interferences; MicroRNA; Pancreatic cancer; REG-4; Serum tumor markers; Sialylated Lewis a antigen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • CA-19-9 Antigen / blood*
  • CA-19-9 Antigen / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • CA-19-9 Antigen