Procalcitonin as an Alternative Tumor Marker of Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021 Nov 19;106(12):3634-3643. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgab564.


Context: Calcitonin (CT) measurement is pivotal in the management of medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC), but several pitfalls can affect its reliability. Procalcitonin (ProCT) has been reported as a promising alternative MTC tumor marker.

Objective: This study aimed to determine the ProCT diagnostic accuracy in prediction and treatment monitoring of MTC.

Methods: Electronic databases were searched for observational studies published until May 2021 without language or time restrictions. Studies comparing ProCT and calcitonin accuracy were included. After removing duplicates and exclusion of not-eligible articles, relevant articles were screened independently by 2 reviewers. Eleven studies (4.5% of the identified studies) met the selection criteria. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed data quality and validity through QUADAS-2.

Results: A meta-analysis was performed on 11 sufficiently clinically and statistically homogeneous studies (n = 5817 patients, 335 MTC patients). Hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristics and bivariate methods were applied. Serum ProCT was found to be a highly accurate test for MTC diagnosis and monitoring. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratios, area under the curve, and positive and negative predictive values for ProCT were 0.90 (95% CI: 0.71-0.97), 1.00 (95% CI: 0.85-1.00), 288 (95% CI: 5.6-14 929.3), 0.10 (95% CI: 0.03-0.33), 0.97 (95% CI: 0.95-0.98), 99%, and 2%, respectively.

Conclusions: The high accuracy, compounded with favorable analytical characteristics, give ProCT great potential to replace calcitonin as a new standard of care in the management of MTC.

Keywords: calcitonin; medullary thyroid carcinoma; meta-analysis; procalcitonin.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Procalcitonin / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • ROC Curve
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Procalcitonin

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, medullary