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Bulletin du Cancer

Standards, Options and Recommendations for tumor markers in colorectal cancer Volume 88, numéro 12, Décembre 2001

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Context: The "Standards, Options and Recommendations" (SOR) project, started in 1993, is a collaboration between the French National Federation of Comprehensive Cancer Centers (FNCLCC), the 20 French Cancer Centers and specialists from French Public University or General Hospitals, and Private Clinics. The main objective is the development of clinical practice guidelines to improve the quality of health care and outcome of cancer patients. The methodology is based on literature review and critical appraisal by a multidisciplinary group of experts, with feedback from specialists in cancer care delivery. Objectives: To define, according to the definitions of the Standards, Options and Recommendations project, the characteristics of the main tumor markers in colorectal cancer and their potential role in the management of patients with this malignancy. Methods: Data were identified by searching Medline® and the personal reference lists of members of the expert groups. Once the guidelines were defined, the document was submitted for review to 117 independent reviewers, and to the medical committees of the 20 French Cancer Centers. Results: The main recommendations for the tumor markers in colorectal cancer are: 1) The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is the reference serum marker (standard). 2) All the analyses for a given patient must be performed in the same laboratory, using the same technique (standard, expert agreement). 3) CEA or CA 19-9 should not be used for screening or diagnosis (standard, level of evidence B2). 4) High initial serum concentration of CEA is of bad predictive value (standard, level of evidence C). CEA is an independent prognostic factor of survival in colorectal cancers with lymph node metastases (standard, level of evidence B2). 5) CEA is the most sensitive biological parameter for the screening of hepatic metastases (standard, level of evidence B2). 6) CEA serum concentration before palliative chemotherapy is an independent prognostic factor of survival (standard, level of evidence B2). The combination of CEA assay with imagery techniques and clinical examination can help monitor the response to palliative chemotherapy (standard), in particular in non measurable disease (standard, expert agreement). 7) In 65% of the cases, CEA is the first indicator of relapse (standard, level of evidence B2). CEA is the choice marker for monitoring patients with colorectal cancer (standard, level of evidence B2). 8) A sustained biological follow-up including CEA assay can be used to predict the operability of recurring tumors (standard, level of evidence B2). Nevertheless, no survival advantage has been shown (standard).