Tumor Markers

Key Information

Baseline and observation—to assess tumor burden and monitor for recurrence.

NSE (Neuron Specific Enolase)

Elevated level indicates presence of small cell carcinoma of lung and neuroblastoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) Antigen

Monitors tumor burden after treatment for squamous cell carcinoma; usually used for advanced disease; primary application is head and neck cancer, secondarily for lung cancer.

DNA Studies

Differentiates between tumors at high and low risk for recurrence. DNA studies are a prognostic tool for non-small cell lung and other solid tumors.

Ploidy Analysis
Aneuploid tumors correlate with more aggressive behavior and a greater risk of recurrence.

S-Phase Analysis
Patients with high S-phase fraction have less favorable prognosis.

Other Tumor Markers

ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone)

Elevated level found in paraneoplastic syndrome caused by small cell carcinoma. Non-diagnostic of lung cancer, but an indicator of metastases.

CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen)

Persistent elevated levels indicate residual or recurrent metastatic carcinoma; smoking may affect accuracy of CEA results.


Elevated levels of this thyroid hormone occasionally occur with small cell lung cancer; increasing levels may indicate progression of disease.

TPA (Tissue Polypeptide Antigen)

Elevated level indicates presence of malignancy; not specific to lung cancer, also monitors bladder, prostate, and gynecologic tumors.

Go to the Tumor Markers page of the Diagnostic Tests module for more information.