Validation of serum tumor biomarkers in predicting advanced cystic mucinous neoplasm of the pancreas

World J Gastroenterol. 2021 Feb 14;27(6):501-512. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v27.i6.501.


Background: Early detection of advanced cystic mucinous neoplasms [(A-cMNs), defined as high-grade dysplasia or malignancy] of the pancreas is of great significance. As a simple and feasible detection method, serum tumor markers (STMs) may be used to predict advanced intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs) and mucinous cystic neoplasms (MCNs). However, there are few studies on the usefulness of STMs other than carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9 for early detection of A-cMNs.

Aim: To study the ability of five STMs-CA19-9, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), CA125, CA724, and CA242 to predict A-cMNs and distinguish IPMNs and MCNs.

Methods: We mainly measured the levels of each STM in patients pathologically diagnosed with cMNs. The mean levels of STMs and the number of A-cMN subjects with a higher STM level than the cutoff were compared respectively to identify the ability of STMs to predict A-cMNs and distinguish MCNs from IPMNs. A receiver operating characteristic curve with the area under curve (AUC) was also created to identify the performance of the five STMs.

Results: A total of 187 patients with cMNs were identified and 72 of them showed A-cMNs. We found that CA19-9 exhibited the highest sensitivity (SE) (54.2%) and accuracy (76.5%) and a moderate ability (AUC = 0.766) to predict A-cMNs. In predicting high-grade dysplasia IPMNs, the SE of CA19-9 decreased to 38.5%. The ability of CEA, CA125, and CA724 to predict A-cMNs was low (AUC = 0.651, 0.583, and 0.618, respectively). The predictive ability of CA242 was not identified. The combination of STMs improved the SE to 62.5%. CA125 may be specific to the diagnosis of advanced MCNs.

Conclusion: CA19-9 has a moderate ability, and CEA, CA125, and CA724 have a low ability to predict A-cMNs. The combination of STM testing could improve SE in predicting A-cMNs.

Keywords: Advanced cystic mucinous neoplasms; Diagnosis; Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms; Mucinous cystic neoplasms; Serum tumor markers.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen
  • CA-19-9 Antigen
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Pancreas
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CA-125 Antigen
  • CA-19-9 Antigen