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Revised Cut-Off Value of Human Epididymis Protein 4 Enhances its Use as an Ovarian Tumor Marker.

OBJECTIVES: Human epididymis protein 4 (HE4), a protein secreted by ovarian tumors, has been used as an ovarian tumor marker. This study aimed to improve the usefulness of HE4 to detect malignant ovarian tumors by reviewing the cut-off values.

DESIGN: Retrospective study without intervention Participants: One hundred forty nine healthy women (premenopausal, 126; postmenopausal, 23) and 24 patients with ovarian tumors (malignant, 12; benign, 12).

SETTING: The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of a University hospital in Japan and the University hospital as a workplace from 2016 to 2018.

METHODS: The basic performance of HE4 assay was evaluated and the serum HE4 levels of participants were measured. Receiver operating characteristic analysis was performed using the HE4 data of the patients.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in the HE4 levels between the pre- and postmenopausal groups of healthy women. When the global cut-off values (premenopausal, 70 pmol/L; postmenopausal, 140 pmol/L) were adopted, the clinical sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were 41.7%, 91.7%, 83.3%, and 61.1%, respectively. Based on the results of the receiver operating characteristic analysis, we set the HE4 cut-off level at 60 pmol/L, regardless of the menopausal status. With the newly set cut-off value, the clinical sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were 66.7%, 91.7%, 88.9%, and 73.3%, respectively. That is, the clinical sensitivity of HE4 was improved without lowering specificity.

LIMITATIONS: The small number of subjects and the fact that the health status of the healthy women was evaluated based on questionnaires were limitations to the study.

CONCLUSION: A clinically useful cut-off value for HE4 as an ovarian tumor marker was established regardless of the menopausal status of the women, with improved clinical sensitivity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value without lowering specificity. Currently, different cut-off values for HE4 in pre- and postmenopausal women are used globally. The cut-off value for CA125 was the same between pre- and postmenopausal women. Therefore, with the newly established cut-off value, HE4 can be used more conveniently, in a non-specialized setting, especially when it is used in combination with CA125.

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