Recommendations

Medical Oncology Group of Australia

4.
Do not perform serum tumour marker tests except to evaluate or monitor a cancer known to produce these markers.

In patients with non-specific symptoms, testing for a panel of tumour markers to try and diagnose an underlying cancer is not supported by evidence given the low sensitivity and specificity of these tests. An exception is in cases of suspected, strong underlying predisposition of specific cancers, in which case testing may prove a useful adjunct or in specific contexts where biomarkers may be useful such as CA-125 for suspected ovarian cancer and the use of PSA to detect prostate cancer in men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).

The appropriate use of tumour biomarker testing is otherwise to monitor the progress of specific cancers under treatment or to detect changes in cancer activity or a secondary or recurring cancer.

Supporting evidence
  • Buys SS, Partridge E, Black A, et al. Effect of screening on ovarian cancer mortality: the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 2011; 305(22):2295–303.
  • Cramer DW, Bast RC Jr, Berg CD, et al. Ovarian cancer biomarker performance in prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial specimens. Cancer Prevention Research 2011; 4(3):365–74.
  • Schröder FH, Hugosson J, Roobol MJ, et al. Screening and prostate-cancer mortality in a randomized European study. New England Journal of Medicine 2009; 360(13):1320–8.
  • Shimada H, Noie T, Ohashi M, et al. Clinical significance of serum tumor markers for gastric cancer: a systematic review of literature by the Task Force of the Japanese Gastric Cancer Association. Gastric Cancer. 2014;17(1):26–33.
How this list was made How this list was made

An Evolve working group of MOGA members was established and compiled an initial list of 79 potentially low-value tests, treatments, and other clinical practices in medical oncology, drawing on the results of a desktop review and clinical experience. Anonymised email feedback on the list was collated and analysed and the initial list was reduced to 64 items. These were divided into seven categories, ranging from ‘Diagnosis and staging’ to ‘Therapy’. An online survey allowed members of the working group to anonymously choose the top six or the top three from each category (depending on the number in the category). From this, a list of the top-28 items was then presented to the MOGA Executive Committee. Following anonymised email feedback, this list was further reduced to 24 items. Each member of the Committee was invited to nominate their top-12 of these. Responses were consolidated and a list of 11 items compiled, which served as the basis of a final online survey, to which the entire MOGA membership was invited to respond. Respondents assigned a score of 1 to 5 for each item based on their level of agreement with each. Scores for each item were averaged and the top-5 list produced.