Interpretation of single and serial measures of HE4 and CA125 in asymptomatic women at high risk for ovarian cancer.

Human epididymis protein 4 (HE4) is approved for clinical use with CA125 to predict epithelial ovarian cancer in women with a pelvic mass or in remission after chemotherapy. Previously reported reference ranges for HE4 are inconsistent.

We report positivity thresholds yielding 90%, 95%, 98%, and 99% specificity for age-defined populations of healthy women for HE4, CA125, and Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm (ROMA), a weighted average of HE4 and CA125. HE4 and CA125 were measured in 1,780 samples from 778 healthy women aged >25 years with a documented deleterious mutation, or aged >35 years with a significant family history. Effects on marker levels of a woman's age, ethnicity, and epidemiologic characteristics were estimated, as were the population-specific means, variances, and within- and between-woman variances used to generate longitudinal screening algorithms for these markers.

CA125 levels were lower with Black ethnicity (P = 0.008). Smoking was associated with higher HE4 (P = 0.007) and ROMA (P < 0.019). Continuous oral contraceptive use decreased levels of CA125 (P = 0.041), and ROMA (P = 0.12). CA125 was lower in women age ≥55, and HE4 increased with age (P < 0.01), particularly among women age ≥55.

Because of the strong effect of age on HE4, thresholds for HE4 are best defined for women of specific ages. Age-specific population thresholds for HE4 for 95% specificity ranged from 41.4 pmol/L for women age 30 to 82.1 pmol/L for women age 80.

Incorporation of serial marker values from screening history reduces personalized thresholds for CA125 and HE4 but is inappropriate for ROMA.

Daly MB, Drescher CW, Karlan BY, McIntosh MW, Paley P, Palomares MR, Thorpe J, Urban N


Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev., 2012, 21 (11)

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