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Serological cancer-associated protein biomarker levels at bowel endoscopy: Increased risk of subsequent primary malignancy

Thomas B. Piper, Hans J. Nielsen, Ib Jarle Christensen
Published: 14 February 2022
 by  IOS Press

Abstract: BACKGROUND: It was previously shown in three subpopulations that subjects not identified with colorectal cancer (CRC) at bowel endoscopy, but with increased serological cancer-associated protein biomarker levels had an increased risk of being diagnosed with subsequent malignant diseases. Objective: The aim of the present study was to perform a pooled analysis of subjects from the three subpopulations and subsequently validate the results in an independent study. The study population denoted the training set includes N = 4,076 subjects with symptoms attributable to CRC and the independent validation set N = 3,774 similar subjects. METHODS: Levels of CEA, CA19-9, TIMP-1 and YKL-40 were determined in blood samples collected prior to diagnostic bowel endoscopy. Follow-up of subjects not diagnosed with CRC at endoscopy, was ten years and identified subjects diagnosed with primary intra- or extra-colonic malignant diseases. The primary analysis was time to a newly diagnosed malignant disease and was analyzed with death as a competing risk in the training set. Subjects with HNPCC or FAP were excluded. The cumulated incidence was estimated for each biomarker and in a multivariate model. The resulting model was then validated on the second study population. RESULTS: In the training set primary malignancies were identified in 515 (12.6%) of the 4,076 subjects, who had a colorectal endoscopy with non-malignant findings. In detail, 33 subjects were subsequently diagnosed with CRC and 482 subjects with various extra-colonic cancers. Multivariate additive analysis of the dichotomized biomarkers demonstrated that CEA (HR = 1.50, 95% CI:1.21–1.86, p < 0.001), CA19-9 (HR = 1.41, 95% CI:1.10–1.81, p = 0.007) and TIMP-1 (HR = 1.25 95% CI: 1.01–1.54, p = 0.041) were significant predictors of subsequent malignancy. The cumulated incidence at 5 years landmark time was 17% for those subjects with elevated CEA, CA19-9 and TIMP-1 versus 6.7% for those with low levels of all. When the model was applied to the validation set the cumulated 5-year incidence was 10.5% for subjects with elevated CEA, CA19-9 and TIMP-1 and 5.6% for subjects with low levels of all biomarkers. Further analysis demonstrated a significant interaction between TIMP-1 and age in the training set. The age dependency of TIMP-1 indicated a greater risk of malignancy in younger subjects if the biomarker was elevated. This observation was validated in the second set. CONCLUSION: Elevated cancer-associated protein biomarker levels in subjects with non-malignant findings at large bowel endoscopy identifies subjects at increased risk of being diagnosed with subsequent primary malignancy. CEA, CA19-9 and TIMP-1 were significant predictors of malignant disease in this analysis. TIMP-1 was found dependent on age. The results were validated in an independent symptomatic population.
Keywords: increased risk / cancer associated protein / associated protein biomarker / diagnosed with subsequent / protein biomarker levels / malignant findings

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