High serum concentrations of sialyl Tn antigen in carcinomas of the biliary tract and pancreas
Sialyl-Tn (STn) antigen is a cancer-associated carbohydrate antigen expressed in cancers of the digestive tract. In the present study, we compared the serum level of STn antigen in 14 patients with benign diseases of the biliary tract and pancreas, 15 patients with bile duct cancers, and 9 patients with cancer of the pancreas. High levels of serum STn (>45 U/ml) were frequently detected in patients with carcinoma of the biliary tract (53.3%) or pancreas (55.6%), compared with the detection of high levels in those with benign diseases (14.3%; P < 0.05). Serum levels of STn did not correlate with the presence of jaundice, cholangitis, or pancreatitis, or with the level of carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) or carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9. In cancer tissues, the expression of STn antigen detected by immunostaining correlated significantly with serum STn (P < 0.05). Our results indicate that measurement of serum STn level may be potentially useful for the diagnosis of carcinomas of the biliary tract and pancreas, particularly when combined with other tumor markers such as CEA or CA19-9.
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