Colorectal cancer patients whose CEA blood tests rise at the beginning of chemotherapy and then fall (CEA flare) do better than patients with a consistently rising CEA. CEA flares don’t necessarily predict worsening cancer.
Compared to patients with consistently rising carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), patients who had a CEA flare had more tumor shrinkage, longer time before their cancer got worse, and longer survival time.
Researchers measured CEA before chemotherapy started and at least twice during chemo in patients with advanced colorectal cancer who were receiving their first course of chemotherapy.
They grouped patients according to how the CEA measurements changed over time:
- decreasing CEA
- normal baseline CEA
- stable CEA
- increasing CEA
Comparing patients with increasing CEA measurements to patients whose CEA rose and then fell (flared):
- Overall response rate was 11 percent in increasing CEAs compared to 73 percent in flares.
- Progression-free survival time was 3.1 months compared to 8.3 months with flares.
- Overall survival was 10.9 months compared to 17.7 months when CEA flared.
A. S. Strimpakos and colleagues at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London concluded,
Compared with patients with rising CEA, flare was an independent favourable predictive and prognostic factor for tumour response and survival.
More information on the CEA flare during first-line chemotherapy is available from Dr. Strimpakos’ poster presented at the 2009 GI Symposium.