Like most websites The Translational Scientist uses cookies. In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. Learn more.
Tools & Techniques Cancer, Diagnostics & prognostics

CEA: Overlooked and Underused

A Mayo Clinic study has found that a simple blood test could improve treatment for nearly one fifth of patients with stage II colon cancer; but many who could benefit from the test are not receiving it.

The test measures levels of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), which has an established link to patient prognosis, and can help to predict recurrence-free survival. But researchers found that it could also play an important role in selecting the most appropriate therapy for some patients (1).

Using information from the National Cancer Database, the team studied over 40,000 patients and found that the results of the CEA test could improve colon cancer staging predictions, raising the risk from average to high in 17 percent of stage II patients. The new classification could have affected potential treatment options, including the decision to use chemotherapy. The researchers also found that adjuvant chemotherapy following surgery appeared to reduce the increased mortality associated with stage II patients with an elevated CEA level.

“The decision to give a patient chemotherapy after surgery is not a light one, and physicians must weigh the risks and benefits," said Kellie Mathis (2), a Mayo Clinic colon and rectal surgeon and senior of the study. “There is no good reason for a physician to omit this blood test, and more work needs to be done to ensure that all patients receive it.”

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Translational Scientist and its sponsors.

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. BA Spindler et al., “Incorporation of CEA improves risk stratification in stage II colon cancer”, J Gastrointest Surg, 21, 770-777 (2017). PMID: 28290141.
  2. Mayo Clinic News Network, “Underused cancer test could improve treatment for thousands, Mayo Clinic study finds”, (2017). Available at: Accessed June 27, 2017.
About the Author
Roisin McGuigan

I have an extensive academic background in the life sciences, having studied forensic biology and human medical genetics in my time at Strathclyde and Glasgow Universities. My research, data presentation and bioinformatics skills plus my ‘wet lab’ experience have been a superb grounding for my role as a deputy editor at Texere Publishing. The job allows me to utilize my hard-learned academic skills and experience in my current position within an exciting and contemporary publishing company.

Register to The Translational Scientist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:

  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts