Mar 24, 2013 - 10:55 pm
Everyone with colorectal cancer is aware of CEA, short for Carcinoembryonic Antigen and watches their levels very closely. However, not many seem to know what CEA actually is, what it does and why its important. Here is my take on CEA:
CEA is the oldest known marker for colorectal cancer (identified in 1965). It is expressed in about 90% of colorectal cancers. It is currently the most common marker used to monitor colorectal cancer and disease progression. Increasing CEA levels are typical signs of progressing disease and the formation of metastases.
CEA is typically expressed during embryonic development, and stops after the fetus is formed. CEA is a glycoprotein belonging to the immunoglobulin supergene family.
Despite a lot of research, not very much is know about the biological function of CEA. What is known, is:
a) CEA protects cells from apoptosis. High levels of CEA have been correlated to poor function of the 5fu chemo agent. It also protects cancer cells from UV-light and Á- Interferon.
b) CEA overexpression can protect tumor cells from anoikis. Anoikis is basically apoptosis induced by loss of cell contact with the extracellular matrix. It can thus protect circulating tumour cells and help them metastize.
c) Experimental and clinical studies show that CEA is involved in the development of liver metastasis from colorectal cancer.
The full article is on my blog: http://www.mcrc4.com/?p=3980