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Mucin-like cancer-associated antigen (MCA) compared with CA 15-3 in advanced breast cancer

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Mucin-like cancer-associated antigen (MCA), a new tumor marker using the mouse monoclonal antibody b-12 is thought to be of value in the management of patients with breast cancer. In this study sera from 191 female patients with breast cancer (112 with progressive disease [PD] and 79 with no evidence of disease [NED]) were analyzed for MCA levels and compared with those of cancer antigen 15-3 (CA 15-3) in single determination and in combination with carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and tissue polypeptide antigen (TPA). A cut-off level of 14 U/ml for MCA seems to be more appropriate than the recommended 11 U/ml to distinguish between PD and NED in patients with breast cancer. Although there was a fairly good correlation of MCA to CA 15-3, MCA was inferior in sensitivity and specificity to CA 15-3. Patients with osseous metastases and those with more than one metastatic site showed higher MCA levels than patients with visceral or soft tissue metastases, a fact which was comparable to CA 15-3. Combining MCA and CA 15-3 resulted in a gain in specificity but marked loss of sensitivity. The combination of MCA and CEA results also in a loss of sensitivity whereas the combination of CA 15-3 and CEA showed an increased specificity and only a negligible loss of sensitivity. The combination of MCA with TPA is of little value in the follow-up of breast cancer, as is the combination of CA 15-3 with TPA. The combination of CA 15-3 with CEA can be still recommended for follow-up for early detection of metastases in breast cancer. Further investigations with MCA to determine the lead time of this new marker as well as its role as a possible monitor of the response to therapy are recommended.

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mucin-like cancer-associated antigen

CA 15-3:

cancer antigen 15-3


carcinoembrionic antigen


tissue polypeptide antigen


no evidence of disease


progressive disease


monoclonal antibody






immunoradiometric assay


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Steger, G.G., Mader, R., Derfler, K. et al. Mucin-like cancer-associated antigen (MCA) compared with CA 15-3 in advanced breast cancer. Klin Wochenschr 67, 813–817 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01725197

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Key words

  • Tumor marker
  • MCA
  • CA 15-3
  • Breast cancer