Measuring Thyroglobulin Concentrations in Patients with Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma
Thyroid carcinomas are the most common malignant endocrine tumors. Thyroglobulin (Tg), a specific thyroid protein, is the most important tumor marker in thyroid oncology. After total thyroidectomy or radioiodine therapy, detectable or increasing serum Tg levels in patients with differentiated thyroid carcinoma indicate persistence of active thyroid tissue or cancer recurrence. Serum Tg concentration primarily reflects three variables: the mass of differentiated thyroid tissue present; the degree of thyrotropin receptor stimulation and the intrinsic ability of the tumor to synthesize and secrete Tg. Measurement of serum Tg by current immunometric (IMA) and radioimmunological (RIA) assays encounters some methodological problems which can diminish its clinical importance. Discrepancy between the results for Tg using different methods may be caused by: different reference materials, specific properties of the primary and secondary antibodies for antigenic determinants on Tg and diverse binding affinities of these epitopes, together with interference by serum factors (usually antibodies to Tg (TgAb)) with the primary and secondary Tg antibodies from the diagnostic set. In the presence of endogenous TgAb, Tg values measured by immunoradiometric assay (IRMA) and similar assays are usually lower than the real concentrations, while in RIA apparently lower or higher results can be obtained. Falsely low values may lead to delay in necessary treatment, while an inappropriately high Tg value can cause patient anxiety and unnecessary scans. Despite current methodological limitations, serum Tg measurement is a useful test for determining worsening disease and monitoring the effects of therapy in patients who have undergone surgery for differentiated thyroid carcinoma.
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