To assess the clinical usefulness of serum tumor markers for early detection of distant breast cancer recurrence using FDG-PET/CT.
We retrospectively analyzed 561 consecutive patients who underwent surgery for invasive primary breast cancer and had increased tumor markers (CA 15-3 and CEA) after completion of locoregional therapy. FDG-PET/CT data were reviewed for all cases. CA 15-3 and CEA were evaluated both in a continuous and in a quartile (Q) distribution. The Wilcoxon rank-sum test and logistic regression models were used to evaluate the association between increased tumor marker values and the presence (and type) of distant metastases.
The median value of CA 15-3 was 35.0 U/mL (IQR, 29.5-43.0) in cases where no distant metastases were detected, and it was 58.9 U/mL (IQR, 40.0-108.0) in cases where metastases were detected (p < 0.001). The median value of CEA was 6.6 U/mL (IQR, 4.4-10.0) in cases of no metastases and 12.4 U/mL (IQR, 6.9-30.0) in cases of metastases (p < 0.001). Increased levels of both tumor markers (Q3 and Q4) were strongly associated with the presence of distant metastases. The association between CA 15-3 and bone/liver metastases was stronger compared with other types of metastases (p heterogeneity between odds ratios [ORs] = 0.03 for Q3 and <0.001 for Q4), while no relevant heterogeneity between ORs emerged for CEA.
Increased tumor marker levels detected in asymptomatic breast cancer patients during adjuvant therapies and follow-up are significantly predictive of distant metastases identified on FDG-PET/CT.

© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.