Human epididymis protein 4 antigen-autoantibody complexes complement cancer antigen 125 for detecting early-stage ovarian cancer.


Early detection of ovarian cancer could significantly improve patient outcomes. Cancer antigen 125 (CA 125) is elevated in sera from approximately 60% of patients with early-stage (I/II) disease. Sensitivity might be improved through the combination of CA 125 with other biomarkers. Among potential biomarkers, antigen-autoantibody (Ag-AAb) complexes have received relatively little attention.

Luminex-based immunoassays were used to measure human epididymis protein 4 (HE4), anti-HE4 autoantibody, and HE4 Ag-AAb complexes in sera from patients with early- (n = 73) and late-stage ovarian cancers (n = 49) at the time of diagnosis and from asymptomatic women with (n = 15) or without ovarian cancer (n = 212) enrolled in the Normal Risk Ovarian Cancer Screening Study.

At 98% specificity for healthy, asymptomatic women, 7% of patients with early-stage (I/II) ovarian cancer and 4% of patients with late-stage (III/IV) disease had elevated levels of HE4 autoantibody, whereas elevated levels of HE4 Ag-AAb complexes were detected in sera from 38% of early-stage cases and 31% of late-stage cases. Complementarity was observed in receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves between HE4 Ag-AAb complexes and CA 125 levels in early-stage ovarian cancer (P < .001). CA 125 detected 63% of cases, and a combination of CA 125 and HE4 Ag-AAb complexes detected 81%. Complementarity was also observed in ROC curves for an independent validation set with 69 early-stage patients (P = .039). HE4 Ag-AAb complexes were detected in serial preclinical serum samples from women destined to develop ovarian cancer: they correlated with CA 125 but did not provide a lead time.

HE4 Ag-AAb complexes could complement CA 125 in detecting a higher fraction of early-stage ovarian cancers.

  • Bast RC
  • Celestino J
  • Fellman BM
  • Guo J
  • Hanash SM
  • Kobayashi M
  • Lu KH
  • Lu Z
  • Menon U
  • Ning J
  • Skates SJ
  • Yang WL
PubMed ID
Appears In
Cancer, 2020, 126 (4)