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Prospective study of the value of serum chromogranin A or serum gastrin levels in the assessment of the presence, extent, or growth of gastrinomas.

Cancer 1999 April 2
BACKGROUND: Serum chromogranin A levels (CgA) are reported by some authors to be of clinical utility for assessing the presence or absence of a pancreatic endocrine tumor and tumor extent or growth. The aim of the current study was to assess this finding and compare the results with those from serum gastrin determinations (FSG) in a large cohort of patients with gastrinomas.

METHODS: In 112 consecutive patients with the Zollinger-Ellison syndrome serum CgA and FSG levels were measured and correlated with disease activity, extent of disease, and the presence of multiple endocrine neoplasia type-1 (MEN-1) or gastric carcinoid tumors.

RESULTS: Serum CgA levels drawn on 2 consecutive days correlated closely (P < 0.00001) as did serum gastrin levels. Serum CgA levels correlated significantly with FSG levels (P < 0.00001). Serum CgA and FSG levels were significantly higher in patients with active disease than in disease free patients (P < 0.00001). The sensitivity for the presence of disease was higher for CgA compared with FSG (92% vs. 80%; P = 0.021). However, the specificity of CgA was 67%. Serum CgA levels were not significantly different in the four disease categories (stable extrahepatic disease, increasing extrahepatic disease, stable liver metastases, and increasing liver metastases). FSG levels were significantly lower in patients with stable extrahepatic disease compared with those with increasing extrahepatic disease. However, both tumor markers decreased significantly with a gastrinoma resection in five patients. The presence of MEN-1 or a gastric carcinoid tumor did not influence the results.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of the current study showed that serum CgA and FSG levels both are sensitive tumor markers for the detection of a gastrinoma; however, CgA levels have a relatively low specificity. Neither the magnitude of the serum CgA nor gastrin level correlated with tumor growth or tumor extent and therefore cannot be used to determine these variables. However, in contrast to some other studies, the results of the current study show that changes in serum CgA or gastrin in a given patient with time are related to the tumor extent and not to gastric mucosal changes due to hypergastrinemia.

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