Expression of CA 15.3 protein in the cyst contents distinguishes benign from malignant pancreatic mucinous cystic neoplasms

D. Rubin, A. L. Warshaw, J. F. Southern, M. Pins, C. C. Compton, K. B. Lewandrowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background. Inflammatory pseudocysts, serous cystadenomas, and mucinous cystic tumors comprise most cystic lesions of the pancreas. The mucinous tumors include mucinous cystic neoplasms, which are benign on histologic examination but have the potential for malignant transformation, and mucinous cystadenocarcinomas. Accurate preoperative classification of pancreatic cysts with clinical and radiologic criteria is often impossible, and as a result many cystic tumors are inappropriately treated as pseudocysts. Analysis of percutaneous needle-aspirated cyst fluid for tumor markers, enzymes, viscosity, and cytologic study has been proposed as a useful modality to distinguish mucinous from nonmucinous cystic lesions. However, no reliable cyst fluid parameter distinguishes benign from malignant mucinous tumors. Methods. The concentration of the tumor marker CA 15-3 was measured by immunoassay in cyst fluid from six pseudocysts, five serous cystadenomas, three mucinous cystic neoplasms, and six mucinous cystadenocarcinomas. Results. The concentration of CA 15-3 in the cyst fluid of mucinous cystadenocarcinomas was higher (mean, 178 units/ml; range, 40 to 392) than that of mucinous cystic neoplasms (mean, 4.7 units/ml; range, 0 to 14), serous cystadenomas (mean, 9.2 units/ml; range, 0 to 32), and pseudocysts (mean, 15.3 units/ml; range, 0 to 66). An upper cutoff value of 30 units/ml distinguished mucinous cystic neoplasms from mucinous cystadenocarcinomas with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity (p = 0.01). Conclusions. Production of CA 15-3 appears to coincide with malignant transformation in pancreatic mucinous cystic neoplasms. We conclude that measurement of CA 15- 3 levels in the cyst fluid is useful in the differentiation of benign from malignant pancreatic mucinous cysts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-55
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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