Prediction of disease status by recombinant human TSH-stimulated serum Tg in the postsurgical follow-up of differentiated thyroid carcinoma

F Pacini, E Molinaro, F Lippi, M G Castagna, L Agate, C Ceccarelli, D Taddei, R Elisei, M Capezzone, A Pinchera
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2001, 86 (12): 5686-90
Stimulation with recombinant human TSH (rhTSH) has been introduced in clinical practice as an effective alternative to thyroid hormone withdrawal for the diagnostic follow-up (Tg measurement and 131-iodine whole-body scan) of patients with differentiated thyroid cancer. The present study was specifically aimed to evaluate the utility of rhTSH-stimulated serum Tg measurements in patients with undetectable serum Tg values, on L-T(4) therapy, as the only test to differentiate patients with persistent disease from patients who are disease-free. We studied 72 consecutive patients with differentiated thyroid cancer, previously treated with near-total thyroidectomy and 131-I thyroid ablation. Admission criteria were: an undetectable (<1 ng/ml) serum Tg, on L-T(4) therapy, and negative anti-Tg antibodies. The study design consisted of a Tg-stimulation test after rhTSH, during L-T(4), followed by diagnostic WBS and serum Tg measurement off L-T(4). After rhTSH, serum Tg remained undetectable in 41 of 72 patients (56.9%). A negative rhTSH Tg test agreed with an undetectable hypo-Tg in 36 of 41 cases (87.8%), all without evidence of metastatic disease at hypo-WBS. In 5 of 41 cases (12.2%), hypo-Tg was detectable (1.1-7.8 ng/ml), in association with negative hypo-WBS or faint uptake in the thyroid bed. Serum Tg converted from undetectable to detectable after rhTSH in 31 of 72 patients (43.1%), with a peak Tg ranging between 1.2 and 23.0 ng/ml. Hypo-Tg was always detectable in these patients (100% concordance), and it was significantly higher than rhTSH-stimulated Tg (P < 0.0002). Hypo-WBS was positive in 23 of 31 patients (74.2%), showing thyroid residues in 12, cervical lymph nodes in 7, and lung metastases in 4 cases. In 8 of 31 cases, hypo-WBS was negative, despite detectable serum Tg. Thus, rhTSH-stimulated Tg was able to detect all cases of documented local or distant metastases. In conclusion, our data indicate that, in patients with undetectable basal levels of serum Tg, rhTSH-stimulated Tg represents an informative test to distinguish disease-free patients (not requiring WBS) from diseased patients (requiring further diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedures).

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