Calcium-stimulated calcitonin - The "new standard" in the diagnosis of thyroid C-cell disease - clinically relevant gender-specific cut-off levels for an "old test"

Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2018 Oct 15;28(3):030710. doi: 10.11613/BM.2018.030710.


Introduction: Pentagastrin (Pg) stimulated calcitonin (sCT) was used to enhance accuracy in medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) diagnosis. As it is now unavailable, calcium (Ca) has been recommended as an alternative. The aim of this study was to define gender-specific cut-off values to predict MTC in patients with elevated basal CT (bCT) following Pg-sCT and Ca-sCT stimulation and to compare the time courses of CT release during stimulation.

Materials and methods: The stimulation tests were applied in 62 consecutive patients with thyroid nodules. Basal calcitonin was measured by chemiluminescent immunometric assay. All patients underwent thyroidectomy and bilateral central neck dissection. C-cell pathology was confirmed by histological and immunohistochemical evaluation.

Results: In 39 (0.63) patients MTC was documented while isolated C-cell hyperplasia (CCH) was identified in 23 (0.37) patients. Medullary thyroid cancer was predicted in males with bCT values > 43 pg/mL or sCT concentrations > 470 pg/mL (Pg-sCT) or > 1500 pg/mL (Ca-sCT), and in females with bCT concentrations > 23 pg/mL or sCT concentrations > 200 pg/mL (Pg-sCT) or > 780 pg/mL (Ca-sCT), respectively. Pg-sCT correctly predicted MTC in 16 (0.66) compared to 13 (0.54) after Ca-sCT in males and in 12 (0.80) compared to 11 (0.73) in females; without statistical significance. In patients with CCH or low tumor burden, there was a tendency of faster CT release after Ca stimulation (CT peak after 3min in > 60%) compared to patients with advanced MTC (CT peak after 3min in < 10%).

Conclusions: Using gender-specific cut-off values, Ca could replace Pg to predict MTC with similar diagnostic power.

Keywords: calcitonin; calcium gluconate; medullary thyroid cancer; pentagastrin; thyroid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / standards*
  • Calcitonin / blood*
  • Calcitonin / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Reference Values
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / blood*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*


  • Calcitonin
  • Calcium

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, medullary