Printer Friendly

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Assays for Testicular Tumors: Closing the Gap between Clinical and Laboratory Practice.

The global incidence of testicular cancer amounts to 55000 cases/year, with a higher prevalence in younger Caucasian men (1). In total, 95% of these neoplasms are germ cell tumors (GCTs), (4) including 50% seminomas and 50% nonseminomatous GCTs (NSGCTs). The latter group is further subclassified into embryonal carcinomas, choriocarcinomas, yolk sac tumors, and mature or immature teratomas; however, most NSGCTs are mixed because several histological components are present (2).

The Institute of Medicine defines clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) as "statements that include recommendations, intended to optimize patient care, that are informed by a systematic review of evidence and an assessment of the benefits and harms of alternative care options" (3). Circulating tumor markers (TMs) have a crucial role in decision-making for a limited number of malignancies, including testicular cancer in which human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a-fetoprotein, and lactate dehydrogenase have an established clinical application (4). Therefore, CPGs on testicular malignancies are expected to provide recommendations that help clinicians to use these TMs appropriately. Recently, a systematic revision of CPGs in solid tumors has been performed, and recommendations on TMs have been extracted, clustered, and summarized (5); 23 guidance documents were related to testicular cancer and 17 addressed TMs. Most of the revised CPGs, however, do not appear to address TMs properly. Although the CPGs address what TMs should be used, when they should be measured, and what cutoff point should be adopted, they do not consider how TMs should be measured, a critical issue that directly influences the clinical value of TMs.

Although the most authoritative CPGs (4, 6-8) recommend the measurement of "hCG" and/or "hCG[beta]" in serum for the management of testicular GCTs, there is evidence that the test is underused and its results are often misinterpreted (9, 10). The issues surrounding the test request and the result interpretation are several and often neglected, mainly related to the heterogeneity of the measure and and to the difficulty of providing harmonized hCG methods (11). Notably, the "technical" performance of currently available hCG assays for oncology applications has been reported to be the primary cause of patient misclassification (10, 12). A review of the literature raises the following concerns:

(1) the differing histology of testicular GCTs (seminomas or NSGCTs) drives the different tissue expression and the detectability in serum of various hCG variants (13);

(2) an unambiguous nomenclature should be adopted for the most important hCG forms (14);

(3) assays commonly used in the clinical laboratory are validated and approved only for pregnancy and not for cancer management (10).

These 3 concerns provide essential background information to be discussed, shared, and clarified between laboratory professionals and clinicians to enable the most appropriate hCG request, assay selection, and result interpretation. To avoid not making any recommendations, or issuing biased and misleading recommendations, CPGs should therefore include substantial information on hCG variants to be detected in relation to the histological GCT type as well as on the assays theoretically suitable for application in oncology. Among the recently released CPGs recommending measurement of TMs for managing testicular cancer, only the guideline of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) (4) adopts an unambiguous nomenclature for hCG forms and makes a clear report regarding the main features of the assays needed for appropriate use in oncology; in issuing this guideline ASCO follows the recommendations made in the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) [5] guideline (15). In general, the issue of the selectivity of hCG assays is very complex and deserves more clarification in CPGs, considering the impact of hCG results on the management of patients with suspected or diagnosed testicular GCTs.

The aim of this review is to critically appraise the main evidence regarding hCG assays suitable for detection/ monitoring of testicular GCTs, considering the differences between recommendations by CPGs and laboratory practice. Given the complexity of the literature related to the characterization of selectivity of hCG assays as well as the wide heterogeneity of available clinical data on hCG diagnostic performance, a review focused on closing the gap between clinical and laboratory practice in this area may represent a valuable aid in patient management.


The appropriate hCG assay for diagnostics/management of testicular GCTs should account for the histology of the malignancy driving the tissue expression of specific hCG variants as well as for their immunoreactivity in serum (13). Testicular GCTs can be divided into 2 categories expressing different hCG variants. The first group includes choriocarcinoma and testicular malignancies taking on a cytotrophoblast histology (NSGCTs) producing hyperglycosylated hCG (hCG-h) in early and advanced stages (16, 17). The term "hyperglycosylated" refers to the expression of acidic variants of hCG that have complex extensively sialylated terminal carbohydrate antennae. Currently, hCG-h refers to the serum forms only detectable by immunoassays using the B152 monoclonal antibody; it has also been called "invasive trophoblast antigen," although there is no evidence that it has an invasive function or uses any other receptor than the LH/hCG receptor (14, 18). In addition to hCG-h in NSGCTs, nicked hCG, hyperglycosylated nicked hCG, and nicked/nonnicked hCG[beta] may also demonstrate serum immunoreactivity (19).

The second group of testicular GCTs includes seminomas that take on a nontrophoblastic histology and produce a mixture of hCG[beta] and hyperglycosylated hCG[beta] in advanced stages (20). Earlier studies have reported data from both immunohistochemistry and immunoassays in patients with pure seminoma and found a variable incidence (from 7% to 40%) of hCG[beta] plus hyperglycosylated hCG[beta] secretion and related serum increase (21--23). What marker was found increased was strictly dependent on the disease stage, and, in fact, almost every cancer in an advanced stage may produce hCG[beta] forms; a hCG[beta] increase in serum is generally detectable in approximately 30% of overall cancer cases (24, 25).

Some evidence on the hCG variants detectable in serum of patients with seminomas and NSGCTs can be found in original clinical studies performed using immunoassays for "total hCG" and specific hCG variants (Table 1) (21, 26--37). However, these results should be interpreted with caution since most of the studies are dated and, consequently, the evidence cannot be directly transferred to current commercially available assays; furthermore, these study results have not been revised according to the selectivity of hCG assays, more recently characterized by the use of WHO International Reference Reagents (IRRs) (38-40).

For pure seminomas, Mann and Siddle found increased "total hCG" concentrations in serum of 12% of studied patients by use of an hCG + hCG[beta] RIA, standardized against the WHO International Standard 75/ 537 (26). In 19 patients, hCG and hCG[beta] were also measured by monoclonal immunoradiometric assays, which showed increased concentrations of either marker in 37% of subjects. In addition, there was evidence that hCG[beta] concentrations increased according to the disease stage (26). A further study, using a similar immunoradiometric assays method, confirmed an hCG[beta] increase in 30% of seminoma patients (27).

In a previous study, with use of an inhouse RIA, the authors investigated the secretion of hCG, hCGa, and hCG[beta] in 56 NSGCTs patients and found increased hCG concentrations in 60%, whereas only 23% and 15% showed an increase of hCG[beta] and hCG[alpha], respectively (28). A similar study evaluated 109 testicular cancer patients (33 seminomas and 76 NSGCTs) and found a similar rate of positive hCG and hCG + hCG[beta] results (approximately 60%) in NSGCTs (29). In seminoma patients, hCG, hCG[beta], and hCG + hCG[beta] had almost equal but lower prevalence (15%-25%) (29). After publishing similar data, Saller et al. suggested the clinical utility of detecting hCG and hCG[beta] in seminomas, by either 2 distinct assays or a single hCG + hCG[beta] assay (32).

Retrieving data from 1994 to 2001, Germa-Lluch et al. reported on 1490 patients with testicular GCTs (64% NSGCTs and 36% seminomas) from 55 hospitals belonging to the Spanish Germ Cell Cancer Group (30). The authors found a positive result for "[beta] hCG" in 21% of seminomas and 53% of NSGCTs, respectively. Although this survey was later cited by several prominent authors and by the NACB guideline (15), these results should be considered with caution since no data were reported on the employed assays.

Hoshi et al. measured hCG and hCG[beta] in 54 patients with seminoma and 74 with NSGCTs, concluding that in seminoma patients a single measurement of hCG[beta] was more effective than a single measurement of hCG because hCG[beta] was positive in 83% vs hCG positive in 50% of cases (33). Similar conclusions were drawn by Lempiainen et al. (31), for whom: a) in seminomas, the single measurement of hCG[beta] was more useful than hCG; b) in NSGCTs, increases of either hCG and hCG[beta] were mostly concordant (approximately 75% of cases).

In a further study, Lempiainen et al. evaluated whether the separate detection of hCG-h and hCG[beta], both measured by immunofluorometric assays, may provide diagnostic and prognostic information additional to that of hCG (34). Because no international standard is available for hCG-h, a provisional standard (i.e., hCG-h from the JEG-3 choriocarcinoma cell line medium) was used to check the assay selectivity. Lempiainen et al. concluded that although hCG in patients with NSGCTs was mainly hyperglycosylated, the determination of hCG-h in serum did not provide clinical information additional to that obtained by conventional hCG assays that also recognize hCG-h; by contrast the separate measurement of hCG[beta] enhanced the detection of relapse and improved the diagnosis of seminomatous tumors (34). The most recent study by the same group has investigated the relationship between the immunohistochemical expression and serum concentrations of hCG, hCG-h, and hCG[beta] in testicular tumors (35). In NSGCTs, these investigators found that serum concentrations of hCG, hCG[beta], and hCG-h were well correlated with tissue staining of the same hCG forms. Seminoma tissue expressed mainly hCG[beta], whereas hCG and hCG-h were rarely and never expressed, respectively. Notably, in patients with seminomas, serum concentrations of hCG[beta] did not correlate with tissue expression, and the increase of hCG[beta] in serum was far more common (52%) than positive tissue staining (7%) (35).

The evidence from available clinical studies listed in Table 1 shows a wide heterogeneity in performances of hCG and hCG[beta] measurements, even when simply reported as percentage of positive results in NSGCTs and seminomas. This is likely dependent on the heterogeneity of the evaluated patient populations, with differences in the prevalence of early/late stages within case series, and in the selectivity of the employed assays. Trying to summarize this evidence, we can argue that:

(1) on average, 36% of patients with seminomas show an isolated hCG[beta] increase, whereas a joined hCG and hCG[beta] increase cannot be reliably defined;

(2) on average, 71% of patients with NSGCTs show an increase of intact hCG and/or hCG + hCG[beta], whereas the hCG[beta] increase is variable according to the stage of the disease;

(3) increased tissue expression and increases of hCG and hCG[beta] in serum are comparable only in NSGCTs.


Because no hCG assay currently has regulatory approval for cancer diagnostics, it is extremely important to define exactly the analytical specificity of commercially available hCG immunoassays to gain a formal validation in this clinical framework and to establish the reliability and transferability of the available clinical evidence.

An exhaustive description of the measured hCG variants and the extent to which they are recognized by different assays may be done reliably only by use of WHO IRRs. Up to 2003, the essentially identical 3rd and 4th WHO international standards hCG 75/537 and 75/589 and the 1st International Reagent Preparation 75/551 for hCG[beta] and 75/569 for hCG[alpha] were available. These standards were relatively impure mixtures of hCG, and their quantities were assigned in units on the basis of bioactivity (hCG) or in mass concentrations, in the case of [alpha] and [beta] subunits (41). Considering that the obtained concentrations for hCG and its subunits in different materials were not directly related and that other clinically relevant forms lack international standards, the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) created a working group to prepare highly purified IRRs for 6 hCG forms, including intact hCG (IRR 99/688), free hCG[beta] (IRR 99/650), nicked hCG (IRR 99/642) and hCG[beta] (IRR 99/692), hCG[beta] core fragment (IRR 99/708), and hCG[alpha] (IRR 99/720) (42, 43).

Since the release of these IRRs, studies have been published to establish the comparability of the 4th WHO international standard hCG 75/589 with the IRR 99/ 688 and to characterize the selectivity of different available assays by the recovery of newly released IRRs. Sturgeon et al. (39) reported results for 4 automated assays measuring intact hCG (Perkin-Elmer AutoDelfia, BioMerieux Vidas, Dade-Behring Dimension, and Roche Elecsys Intact hCG), for 6 automated assays measuring hCG + hCG[beta] (Abbott Architect, Abbott AxSYM, Abbott IMx, Beckman Access, Siemens Centaur, and Tosoh AIA Total), and for 4 automated assays (Roche Elecsys Total hCG, Siemens Immulite, Siemens Immulite 2000, and Ortho Vitros ECi) and 2 inhouse RIAs measuring hCG + hCG[beta] + hCG[beta] core fragments. The recognition of different hCG variants was reported in molar terms, with the results expressed as percent ratio relative to the recognition of hCG IRR 99/688 for each assay. With the recognition of intact hCG, all assays were reported to detect accurately the 75/589 standard against which they had been calibrated. Recovery of IRR 99/688 was found to be on average approximately110--115% for Beckman Access, Siemens Centaur, and hCG + hCG[beta] Abbott Architect, and far higher for the other assays including RIA. These increased recoveries reflected the higher purity of the IRRs.

With recognition of hCG[beta] (IRR 99/650) vs hCG (IRR 99/688), a great interassay variability was shown, with 9 assays markedly overestimating hCG[beta] (in average, + 132%). The recognition of nicked hCG[beta] (IRR 99/ 692) ranged from 46% to 156%, giving approximately 100% only for Roche Elecsys and Siemens Immulite. For oncological application, however, it is relevant to observe that the variability in nicked hCG recognition is not a major problem.

A further study, performed by Harvey et al. (40), confirmed the results on the recovery of hCG and different forms, reporting a recognition of hCG[beta] quite similar to that of intact hCG (range: 107%-123%) for most assays, except for the Beckman Access assay which exhibited an overestimate by 2.3-fold, and for the 2 RIAs, which significantly underestimated hCG[beta]. Interestingly, this study also measured samples of patients with testicular GCTs, highlighting that the interassay variability for detection of hCG variants is greater for hCG[beta], and this was recognized as the main cause of discrepancies among assays measuring hCG + hCG[beta] (40).

Whittington et al. (38) performed a study similar to that of Sturgeon et al., but reported lower recoveries for hCG[beta]. Seven hCG assays detected hCG[beta], but only 4 showed equimolar detection of hCG[beta] vs hCG. One assay (Beckman DxL Total phCG) overestimated hCG[beta], 2 assays (Vitros ECi Total [beta]-hCG II and AIA 1800 ST Total [beta]-hCG) underestimated it, and the Dimension RxL hCG assay was unable to detect it, in accordance with the assay design.

The studies by Cole et al. (19, 44, 45) require separate consideration, because this research group tested the recovery of commercial measuring systems by using purified preparations different from WHO IRRs (46). Indeed, their obtained results were substantially different from those reported by previous authors. In the more recent study (45), the authors characterized 12 types of automated hCG assays, reporting on the recoveries of different hCG variants, by supplementing serum and urine samples with the purified standards mentioned above. Only the Siemens Immulite 2000 assay gave consistently acceptable results for all hCG variants and was recommended as the assay of choice for diagnosing and monitoring trophoblastic disease and nontrophoblastic cancer and, more generally, for all applications requiring recognition of both intact hCG and hCG metabolic products (45). Surprisingly, 8 out of 12 assays failed to detect hCG[beta] appropriately; the authors' conclusion was that, in terms of selectivity for hCG variants, "there was no significant improvement since the 1970s when the manual 'hCG[beta]' RIA accurately detecting all variants was employed." It should be noted that the quality of Cole's work has been questioned by some authoritative journals owing to violations of scientific publishing standards and the presence of methodologic flaws (47).

When considering all the evidence on the analytical selectivity of commercial hCG immunoassays, the variability of recoveries of different hCG forms undoubtedly reflects differences in assay design and in selected antibodies. No assay appears to be close to the equimolar recognition of all hCG forms (39). The large between-assay variation observed for detection of hCG[beta] is likely to provide wide discrepancies in hCG results from sera of patients with cancers (48). A further experimental proof of wide discrepancies and of large variation in hCG results among the most popular assays detecting "total hCG" can be derived from proficiency test reports, confirming that the sole addition of hCG[beta] unexpectedly increases the variability of results (10, 49, 50).

Acknowledging the assay design as the most critical point, in 2013 the International Society of Oncology and Biomarkers Tissue Differentiation recommended for oncology purposes the use of hCG + hCG[beta] immunoassays with broad selectivity, with use of monoclonal antibodies against the [beta]1 epitope as a capture antibody combined with a detector antibody recognizing [beta]2 or p4 epitopes (14). However, hCG assays built on this design are not yet commercially available, and consequently the recognition of more clinically relevant hCG variants on equimolar basis is currently out of reach (40). By applying a pragmatic approach, some authors have recommended as a minimum requirement for oncology application the use of an assay characterized by an equal detection of hCG and hCG[beta], considering that trophoblastic tumors produce intact hCG and that hCG[beta] may predominate as well, frequently being the only form in the serum of patients with GCTs (32, 42, 51). With the use of this simple guidance, out of the 4 assays (Immulite 2000 hCG, Elecsys 2010 hCG+[beta], Advia Centaur Total hCG, and Architect Total [beta]-hCG) identified by Whittington et al. (38) in their study, only 2 (Advia Centaur and Architect) were confirmed to be close to the goal for equimolarity by Sturgeon et al. and Harvey et al. (39, 40).The Advia Centaur can produce falsely decreased hCG results when hCG[beta] is very high, at concentrations substantially greater than those typically observed in malignancies (52). These conclusions disagree with those of Cole et al. quoted above, reporting Immulite 2000 as the only assay useful in oncology (19, 44, 45). This is an important practical point to be discussed, since several studies have considered the Immulite assay as the "reference method" in this framework and have validated other assays by performing head-to-head comparisons with it on serum samples from patients with GCTs (53). An additional point of practicality concerns the use of RIAs for measuring hCG in testicular GCT management, and RIA methods are often preferentially chosen by hCG reference centers (45). These were originally reported as the only assays satisfying the goal of equimolar recognition of all hCG forms, but more recent studies employing WHO IRRs have demonstrated their significant underestimation of hCG[beta] (40). All authors agree on banning in oncology the use of assays not detecting hCG[beta] (Perkin-Elmer AutoDelfia, BioMerieux Vidas, Dade-Behring Dimension, Roche Elecsys Intact hCG, Dimension RxL hCG) and on using the same assay for disease monitoring in the same patient, as the wide variability in hCG + hCG[beta] results among assays places patients at risk for mismanagement (39, 40, 52, 54). The lack of harmonization across hCG assays remains a critical issue, at least until comparative epitope mapping procedures suggested to improve comparability of results have been applied (55).


We previously mentioned the suggestion by some authoritative sources to use only assays characterized by an equal detection of intact hCG and hCG[beta] (the so-called "total hCG" assays) for oncology application. Other authors have dissented from this proposal in favor of separate determinations of intact hCG and hCG[beta] (34, 42, 48). They recommended applying direct hCG[beta] measurement for differential diagnosis and monitoring of seminomas and as an aid for diagnosis of nontrophoblastic tumors, which release, in 30 -60% of cases, hCG[beta] but not intact hCG (54). They argued that the upper reference limit for hCG + hCG[beta] concentrations in serum is higher than that for hCG[beta] alone, and thus tumors causing only a moderate increase in serum hCG[beta] might not be detectable by an assay measuring "total hCG" (26, 33, 34, 42, 54). Lempiainen et al. (34) showed in their case series that the use of the assay measuring hCG + hCG[beta] would have missed all seminoma patients (45% of total) having increased concentration of hCG[beta] and approximately 5% of marker-positive NSGCTs. Additionally, 1 seminoma patient and 5 NSGCT patients with a relapse after complete remission had increased concentrations of hCG[beta] with a concentration of "total hCG" within the reference interval (34). Accordingly, if the main aim is to facilitate the earlier detection of a tumor relapse, the specific measurement of hCG[beta] should be promoted, with use of assays characterized by a low limit of detection (42).

Summarizing different positions, Glenn D. Braunstein named "splitters" those authors who prefer determining intact hCG and hCG[beta] separately, whereas "lumpers" support the "one-size-fits-all" concept, which is the use of a single assay that measures hCG + hCG[beta], ideally in equimolar quantities (54). Braunstein commented that there is no definitive evidence on the cost-effectiveness of using multiple assays vs an all-inclusive single assay, although he advised on the need to choose assays with broader selectivity (54). The failure to know the selectivity of hCG assays toward different hCG forms, related to the lack of information in the manufacturers' product inserts, is well recognized (10). An additional source of errors in reporting patient results concerns the nomenclature adopted for hCG variants recognized by the assays, which is confusing and in some cases misleading. The International Society of Oncology and Biomarkers has recommended the use of "hCG" for the bioactive intact [alpha][beta]-heterodimer, "hCG[beta]" for the intact noncombined free hCG[beta]-subunit (hCG[beta] aa1-145), and "hCGn" for defining the nicked [alpha][beta] heterodimer (nicks in the hCG[beta] aa44-48 region) (14).

Among the current CPGs on management of testicular GCTs, 4 address the hCG measurement (4, 6-8), but only the ASCO CPG clearly recommend the use of double-antibody immunometric assays that measure "total hCG" (i.e., intact [alpha][beta] heterodimer plus free hCG[beta] monomer) (4). ASCO refers to the NACB guideline in declaring the lack of evidence for considering the measurement of hCG[beta] alone to improve testicular cancer detection (15). To pragmatically form a conclusion on the selection of the most suitable hCG + hCG[beta] assays for use in oncology, after critically appraising the main evidence on assay selectivity present in the literature and summarized in this review, we can argue that at least 4 currently marketed immunoassays (Immulite 2000 hCG, Elecsys 2010 hCG+[beta], Advia Centaur Total hCG, and Architect Total [beta]-hCG) have broad selectivity and analytical sensitivity high enough to suitably measure "total hCG" in oncology.

Falsely increased hCG concentrations in serum of patients with testicular GCTs, due to analytical interferences (e.g., heterophile antibodies) or associated clinical conditions (e.g., hypogonadism with increased hCG production by the pituitary gland, tumor lysis induced by chemotherapy), have been reported (56-63). Those conditions that can wrongly influence hCG results should be considered as potential causes of misdiagnosis and mismanagement of testicular GCTs (64-66).


Although the hCG test is recommended by authoritative CPGs for management of testicular GCTs, both the NACB and the European Group on Tumor Markers guidelines emphasize that this application should be considered off-label for those methods designed to detect the most clinically relevant hCG variants, and require that the employed assay must be declared on the laboratory report (15, 67). However, we have doubt that this information, once explicitly available, can effectively help clinicians to correctly interpret marker results, since knowledge of the assay specificity is generally not available from manufacturers. Nevertheless, laboratory professionals, who are responsible for test procedures and corresponding results, should be aware of the heterogeneity of hCG assays and the selectivity of the method in service (68). Knowledge of the selectivity of the employed commercial hCG immunoassay will help improve the reliability of the clinical interpretation of results and directly affect patients' outcomes (12, 58, 63).

Thus, hCG + hCG[beta] assays reported with a nearly equimolar recognition of both intact hCG and hCG[beta] monomer, or at least not showing an overt underestimation of hCG[beta], may be used for the management of testicular GCTs. Assays not accurately detecting hCG[beta] should not be used in oncology. In addition to the "total hCG" assay in service, an extra assay with broader selectivity for other hCG variants should be considered when: a) false-negative hCG results are suspected in relation to the expression of modified cancer-related variants, and/or b) positive hCG results do not comply with clinical data. Finally, in patient monitoring it is crucial to use the same assay because of the still high interassay variability (69).

Clinicians may apply optimal standards for patient care when clinical laboratories offer high quality measurements, which are suitable for clinical application (70). The present study has discussed the gap in the translation of relevant information about the characteristics of hCG assays for use in testicular tumors into clinical practice. We believe that only a multidisciplinary approach can help to focus on important laboratory-related items that can influence healthcare outcomes (71). The issues we have raised highlight the critical need for laboratory expertise when drafting CPGs involving the use of TM tests in GCTs. On the other hand, it is time that regulatory agencies require manufacturers providing commercial kits for hCG determination to declare the selectivity of employed antibodies for clinically relevant hCG variants and the specificity of the antibody combination as a prerequisite for the market clearance of assays.

Author Contributions: All authors confirmed they have contributed to the intellectual content of this paper and have met the following3 requirements: (a) significant contributions to the conception and design, acquisition ofdata, or analysis and interpretation ofdata; (b) drafting or revising the article for intellectual content; and (c) final approval of the published article.

Authors' Disclosures or Potential Conflicts of Interest: No authors declared any potential conflicts of interest.


(1.) Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C, Rebelo M, et al. Cancer incidence and mortality worldwide: sources, methods and major patterns in GLOBOCAN 2012. Int J Cancer 2015;136:E359-86.

(2.) Richie J, Steele G. Neoplasms of the testis. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Novick AC, Partin AW, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders;2007: 907-8.

(3.) Institute of Medicine (IOM). Clinical Practice Guidelines we can trust. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011.

(4.) Gilligan TD, Seidenfeld J, Basch EM, Einhorn LH, Fancher T, Smith DC, et al. American Society of Clinical Oncology Clinical Practice Guideline on uses of serum tumor markers in adult males with germ cell tumors. J Clin Oncol 2010;28:3388-404.

(5.) Gion M, Trevisiol C, Rutjes AWS, Rainato G, Fabricio ASC. Circulating tumor markers: a guide to their appropriate clinical use. Comparative summary of recommendations from clinical practice guidelines (Part 1). Int J Biol Markers 2016;31:e332-67.

(6.) Alberta Provincial Genitourinary Tumour Team (AHS). Testicular germ cell tumours. Edmonton (Alberta): Cancer Control Alberta, 2013.

(7.) Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Management of adult testicular germ cell tumours. A national clinical guideline. Edinburgh (Scotland): Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, 2011. http://www. (Accessed April 1,2017).

(8.) Stephenson AJ, Aprikian AG, Gilligan TD, Oldenburg J, Powles T, Toner GC, et al. Management of low-stage nonseminomatous germ cell tumors of testis: SIU/ICUD consensus meeting on germ cell tumors (GCT), Shanghai 2009. Urology 2011;78:S444-55.

(9.) Gilbert SM, Daignault S, Weizer AZ, Wei JT, Hollenbeck BK. The use of tumor markers in testis cancer in the United States: a potential quality issue. Urol Oncol 2008;26:153-7.

(10.) Cao ZT, Rej R. Are laboratories reporting serum quantitative hCG results correctly? Clin Chem 2008;54: 761-4.

(11.) Sturgeon CM, Ellis AR. Standardization of FSH, LH and hCG-current position and future prospects. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2007;26:301-9.

(12.) Sturgeon CM, Viljoen A. Analytical error and interference in immunoassay: minimizing risk. Ann Clin Biochem 2011;48:418-32.

(13.) Cole LA. HCG variants, the growth factors which drive human malignancies. Am J Cancer Res 2012;2:2235.

(14.) Berger P, Paus E, Hemken PM, Sturgeon C, Stewart WW, Skinner JP, et al.; Members of the ISOBM TD-7 Workshop on hCG and related molecules. Candidate epitopes for measurement of hCG and related molecules: the second ISOBM TD-7 workshop. Tumour Biol 2013;34:4033-57.

(15.) Sturgeon CM, Duffy MJ, Stenman UH, Lilja H, Brunner N, Chan DW, et al.; National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry. National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry laboratory medicine practice guidelines for use of tumor markers in testicular, prostate, colorectal, breast, and ovarian cancers. Clin Chem 2008; 54:e11-79.

(16.) Handschuh K, Guibourdenche J, Tsatsari V, Guesnon M, Laurendeau I, Evain Brion D, et al. hCG produced by the invasive trophoblast but not the villoustrophoblast promotes cell invasion and is down-regulated by peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-a. Endocrinol 2007;148:5011-9.

(17.) Cole LA, Khanlian SA, Riley JM, Butler SA. Hyperglycosylated hCG (hCG-H) in gestational implantation, and in choriocarcinoma and testicular germcell malignancy tumorigenesis. J Reprod Med 2006;51:919-29.

(18.) Cole LA, Shahabi S, Oz UA, Bahado-Singh RO, Mahoney MJ. Hyperglycosylated human chorionic gonadotropin (invasivetrophoblastantigen) immunoassay: a new basis for gestational Down syndrome screening. Clin Chem 1999;45:2109-19.

(19.) Cole LA, Shahabi S, Butler SA, Mitchell H, Newlands ES, Behrman HR, et al. Utility of commonly used commercial human chorionic gonadotropin immunoassays in the diagnosis and management of trophoblastic diseases. Clin Chem 2001;47:308-15.

(20.) Cole LA. Hyperglycosylated hCG. Placenta 2007;28: 977-86.

(21.) Cochran JS. The seminoma decoy: measurement of serum human chorionic gonadotropin in patients with seminoma. J Urol 1976;116:465-6.

(22.) Hedinger C, Hochstetter AR, Egloff B. Seminoma with syncytiotrophoblastic giant cells. A special form of seminoma. Virchows Arch [Pathol Anat] 1979; 383:59-67.

(23.) Butcher DN, Gregory WM, Gunter PA, Masters JR, Parkinson MC. The biological and clinical significance of hCG-containing cells in seminoma. Br J Cancer 1985; 51:473-8.

(24.) Acevedo HF, Krichevsky A, Campbell-Acevedo EA, Galyon JC, Buffo MJ, Hartsock RJ. Flow cytometry method for the analysis of membrane-associated human chorionic gonadotropin, its subunits, and fragments on human cancer cells. Cancer 1992;69: 1818-28.

(25.) Regelson W. Have we found the "definitive cancer biomarker"? The diagnostic and therapeutic implications of human chorionic gonadotropin-beta statement as a key to malignancy. Cancer 1995;76:1299-301.

(26.) Mann K, Siddle K. Evidence for free beta-subunit secretion in so-called human chorionic gonadotropinpositiveseminoma. Cancer 1988;62:2378-82.

(27.) Ruther U, Rothe B, Grunert K, Bader H, Sessler R, Nunnensiek C, et al. Role of human chorionic gonadotropin in patients with pure seminoma. Eur Urol 1994;26: 129-33.

(28.) Mann K, Karl HJ. Molecular heterogeneity of human chorionic gonadotropin and its subunits in testicular cancer. Cancer 1983;52:654-60.

(29.) MadersbacherS, Klieber R, Mann K, Marth C, Tabarelli M, Wick G, et al. Free alpha-subunit, free beta-subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and intact hCG in sera of healthy individuals and testicular cancer patients. Clin Chem 1992;38:370-6.

(30.) Germa-Lluch JR, Garcia del Muro X, Maroto P, Paz-Ares L, Arranz JA, Guma J, et al. Clinical pattern and therapeutic results achieved in 1490 patients with germ-cell tumours of the testis: the experience of the Spanish Germ-Cell Cancer Group (GG). Eur Urol 2002;42:553-62.

(31.) Lempiainen A, Stenman UH, Blomqvist C, Hotakainen K. Free beta-subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin in serum is a diagnostically sensitive marker of seminomatous testicular cancer. Clin Chem 2008;54:1840-3.

(32.) Saller B, Clara R, Spottl G, Siddle K, Mann K. Testicular cancer secretes intact human choriogonadotropin (hCG) and its free beta-subunit: evidence that hCG (+hCG-beta) assays are the most reliable in diagnosis and follow-up. Clin Chem 1990;36:234-9.

(33.) Hoshi S, Suzuki K, Ishidoya S, Ohyama C, Sato M, NamimaT, et al. Significance of simultaneous determination of serum human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and hCG-beta in testicular tumor patients. Int J Urol 2000;7:218-23.

(34.) Lempiainen A, Hotakainen K, Blomqvist C, Alfthan H, Stenman UH. Hyperglycosylated human chorionic gonadotropin in serum of testicular cancer patients. Clin Chem 2012;58:1123-9.

(35.) Lempiainen A, Sankila A, Hotakainen K, Haglund C, Blomqvist C, Stenman UH. Expression of human chorionic gonadotropin in testicular germ cell tumors. Urol Oncol 2014;32:727-34.

(36.) Javadpour N, McIntire KR, Waldmann TA. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and alphafetoprotein (AFP) in sera and tumor cells of patients with testicular seminoma: a prospective study. Cancer 1978;42: 2768-72.

(37.) Javadpour N, McIntire KR, Waldmann TA. Immunochemical determination of human chorionic gonadotropin and alpha-fetoprotein in sera and tumors of patients with testicular cancer. Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 1978;49:209-13.

(38.) Whittington J, Fantz CR, Gronowski AM, McCudden C, Mullins R, Sokoll L, et al. The analytical specificity of human chorionic gonadotropin assays determined using WHO International Reference Reagents. Clin Chim Acta 2010;411:81-5.

(39.) Sturgeon CM, Berger P, Bidart JM, Birtken S, Burns C, Norman RJ, et al. Differences in recognition of the 1st WHO international reference reagents for hCG-related isoforms by diagnostic immunoassays for human chorionic gonadotropin. Clin Chem 2009; 55:1484-91.

(40.) Harvey RA, Mitchell HD, Stenman UH, Blankenstein MA, Nustad K, Stieber P, et al. Differences in total human chorionic gonadotropin immunoassay analytical specificity and ability to measure human chorionic gonadotropin in gestational trophoblastic disease and germ cell tumors. J Reprod Med 2010;55:285-95.

(41.) Gronowski AM, Grenache DG. Characterization of the hCG variants recognized by different hCG immunoassays: an important step toward standardization of hCG measurements. Clin Chem 2009;55: 1447-9.

(42.) Stenman UH, Alfthan H, Hotakainen K. Human chorionic gonadotropin in cancer. Clin Biochem 2004;37: 549-61.

(43.) Birken S, Berger P, Bidart JM, Weber M, BristowA, Norman R, et al. Preparation and characterization of new WHO reference reagents for human chorionic gonadotropin and metabolites. Clin Chem 2003;49:144-54.

(44.) Cole LA, Sutton JM, Higgins TN, Cembrowski GS. Between method variation in human chorionic gonadotropin results. Clin Chem 2004;50:873-88.

(45.) Cole LA, Dutroit S, Higgins TN. Total hCG tests. Clin ChimActa 2011;412:2216-22.

(46.) Elliott MM, Kardana A, Lustbader JW, Cole LA. Carbohydrate and peptide structure of the a- and /-subunits of human chorionic gonadotropin from normal and aberrant pregnancy and choriocarcinoma. Endocrine 1997; 7:15-32.

(47.) Garite TJ, Kim MH. Editors' note on notice of retraction. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2011;205:396 -7.

(48.) Stenman UH, Tiitinen A, Alfthan H, Valmu L. The classification, functions and clinical use of different isoforms of HCG. Hum Reprod Update 2006;12:769-84.

(49.) Cole LA, Kardana A. Discordant results in human chorionic gonadotropin assays. Clin Chem 1992;38: 263-70.

(50.) Sturgeon C. Standardization of tumor markers--priorities identified through external quality assessment. Scand J Clin Lab Investig 2016;76:S94 -9.

(51.) Khazaeli MB, Buchina ES, Pattillo RA, Soong SJ, Hatch KD. Radioimmunoassay of free beta-subunit of human chorionic gonadotropin in diagnosis of high-risk and low-risk gestational trophoblastic disease. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1989;160:444-9.

(52.) Grenache DG, Greene DN, Dighe AS, Fantz CR, Hoefner D, McCudden C, et al. Falsely decreased human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) results dueto increased concentrations of the free / subunit and the / core fragment in quantitative hCG assays. Clin Chem 2010;56: 1839-44.

(53.) du Toit SA, Bouwhuis J, Matson M, Musaad S, Davidson JS. Comparison of 2 human chorionic gonadotropin assays as tumor markers assays. Clin Chem 2010;56: 1502-3.

(54.) Gronowski AM. Clinical assays for human chorionic gonadotropin: whatshould we measure and how? Clin Chem 2009;55:1900-4.

(55.) Berger P, Lapthorn AJ. Standardization of epitopes for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) immunoassays. CurrMed Chem 2016;23:3481-94.

(56.) Mohler JL, Siami PF, Flanigan RC. False positive beta-human chorionic gonadotropin in testicular cancer. Urology1987;30:252-4.

(57.) Morris MJ, Bosl GJ. Recognizing abnormal marker results that do not reflect disease in patients with germ cell tumors. J Urol 2000;163:796-801.

(58.) Trojan A, Joller-Jemelka H, Stahel RA, Jacky E, Hersberger M. False-positive human serum chorionic gonadotropin in a patient with a history of germ cell cancer. Oncology 2004;66:336-8.

(59.) Berglund L, Holmberg NG. Heterophilic antibodies against rabbit serum causing falsely elevated gonadotropin levels. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 1989;68: 377-8.

(60.) Lempiainen A, Hotakainen K, Blomqvist C, Alfthan H, Stenman UH. Increased human chorionic gonadotropin due to hypogonadism after treatment of atesticular seminoma. Clin Chem 2007;53:1560-1.

(61.) van der Gaast A, Hoekstra JW, Croles JJ, Splinter TA. Elevated serum tumor markers in patients with testicular cancer after induction chemotherapy due to a reservoir of markers in cystic differentiated mature teratoma. J Urol 1991;145:829-31.

(62.) Beck SDW, Patel MI, Sheinfeld J. Tumor marker levels in post-chemotherapy cystic masses: clinical implications for patients with germ cell tumors. J Urol 2004; 171:168-71.

(63.) Ballieux BE, Weijl NI, Gelderblom H, van Pelt J, Osanto S. False-positiveserum human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in a male patient with a malignant germ cell tumor of the testis: a case report and review of the literature. Oncologist 2008;13:1149-54.

(64.) Cole LA. hCG, itsfree subunits and metabolites in pregnancy and trophoblastic disease. J Reprod Med 1998; 43:3-10.

(65.) Mitchell H. Analysis of hCG: clinical applications and assay requirements. Ann Clin Biochem 1999;36:25960.

(66.) Avoiding inappropriate clinical decisions based on false-positive human chorionic gonadotropin test results. ACOG Committee Opinion Number 278, November 2002 (Reaffirmed 2015). on-Gynecologic-Practice/Avoiding-Inappropriate Clinical-Decisions-Based-on-False-Positive-HumanChorionic (Accessed April 2017).

(67.) Lamerz R, Albrecht W, Bialk P, Dati F, Duffy MJ, Gerl A, et al.Tumour markers in germ cell cancer: EGTM recommendations. Anticancer Res 1999;19:2785-820.

(68.) Sturgeon C. Practice guidelinesfor tumor marker use in the clinic. Clin Chem 2002;48:1151-9.

(69.) Stenman UH. Standardization of assays for human chorionic gonadotropin. Clin Chem 2004;50:798-800.

(70.) Sandberg S, Fraser CG, Horvath AR, Jansen R, Jones G, Oosterhuis W, et al. Defining analytical performance specifications: Consensus Statement from the 1st Strategic Conference of the European Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. Clin Chem Lab Med 2015;53:833-5.

(71.) Ferraro S, Braga F, Panteghini M. Laboratory medicine in the new healthcare environment. Clin Chem Lab Med 2016;54:523-33.

Simona Ferraro, [1] * Chiara Trevisiol, [2] Massimo Gion, [3] and Mauro Panteghini [1]

[1] Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences "Luigi Sacco," University of Milan, and Clinical Pathology Laboratory, ASST Fatebenefratelli-Sacco, Milan, Italy; [2] Istituto Oncologico Veneto (IOV)-IRCCS, Padua, Italy; [3] Regional Center and Program for Biomarkers, Department of Clinical Pathology and Transfusion Medicine, Venice, Italy.

* Address correspondence to this author at: UOC Patologia Clinica, Ospedale "Luigi Sacco," Via GB Grassi 74, 20157 Milano, Italy. Fax +39-023-904-2766; e-mail

Received April 16,2017; accepted September 14,2017.

Previously published online at DOI: 10.1373/clinchem.2017.275263

[C] 2017 American Association for Clinical Chemistry

[4] Nonstandard abbreviations: GCTs, germ cell tumors; NSGCTs, nonseminomatous GCTs; CPGs, clinical practice guidelines; TMs, tumor markers; hCG, human chorionic gonadotropin; ASCO, American Society of Clinical Oncology; NACB, National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry; hCG-h, hyperglycosylated hCG; IRRs, International Reference Reagents.

[5] The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB) is now the AACC Academy.
Table 1. Synopsis of studies on patients with diagnosis of seminoma
or nonseminomatousgerm cell tumors reporting detected human chorionic
gonadotropin forms and rates of positivity. (a)

Authors (year)                     Histology   Method

Cochran (1976) (21)                Seminoma    RIA

Mann and Siddle (1988) (26)                    RIA

Ruther et al. (1994) (27)                      IRMA

Madersbacher et al. (1992) (29)                ELISA

Germa-Lluch et al. (2002) (30)                 Not available

Lempiainen et al. (2008) (31)                  IFMA

Saller et al. (1990) (32)                      IRMA

Hoshi et al. (2000) (33)                       IFMA

Lempiainen et al. (2012) (34)                  IFMA

Lempiainen et al. (2014) (35)                  IFMA

Javadpour et al. (1978) (36)                   RIA

Javadpour et al. (1978) (37)                   RIA

Mann and Karl (1983) (28)          NSGCT       RIA

Madersbacher et al. (1992) (29)                RIA

Germa-Lluch et al. (2002) (30)                 Not available

Lempiainen et al. (2008) (31)                  IFMA

Saller et al. (1990) (32)                      IRMA

Hoshi et al. (2000) (33)                       IFMA

Lempiainen et al. (2012) (34)                  IFMA

Lempiainen et al. (2014) (35)                  IFMA

Javadpour et al. (1978) (37)                   RIA

                                                      Positivity rate
Authors (year)                     Detected hCG       (total number
                                   variant(s)          of patients)

Cochran (1976) (21)                hCG (?) (b)           10% (20)

Mann and Siddle (1988) (26)        hCG + hCG[beta]       12% (349)
                                   hCG                   37% (19)
                                   hCG[beta]             37% (19)

Ruther et al. (1994) (27)          hCG[beta] (?)         30% (106)

Madersbacher et al. (1992) (29)    hCG                   15% (33)
                                   hCG[beta]             20% (33)
                                   hCG + hCG[beta]       25% (33)

Germa-Lluch et al. (2002) (30)     hCG[beta] (?)         21% (533)

Lempiainen et al. (2008) (31)      hCG                   17% (42)
                                   hCG[beta]             52% (42)

Saller et al. (1990) (32)          hCG                   20% (51)
                                   hCG[beta]             30% (51)
                                   hCG + hCG[beta]       48% (51)

Hoshi et al. (2000) (33)           hCG                   50% (54)
                                   hCG[beta]             83% (54)

Lempiainen et al. (2012) (34)      hCG                    0% (29)
                                   hCG[beta]             45% (29)
                                   hCG-h                  1% (29)

Lempiainen et al. (2014) (35)      hCG[beta]             52% (34)

Javadpour et al. (1978) (36)       hCG[beta] (?)         8% (130)

Javadpour et al. (1978) (37)       hCG[beta] (?)          5% (60)

Mann and Karl (1983) (28)          hCG                   60% (56)
                                   hCG[beta]             23% (56)

Madersbacher et al. (1992) (29)    hCG                   60% (76)
                                   hCG                   58% (76)
                                   hCG[beta]             40% (76)
                                   hCG + hC[beta]        59% (76)

Germa-Lluch et al. (2002) (30)     hCG[beta] or hCG      53% (957)
                                   + hCG[beta] (?)

Lempiainen et al. (2008) (31)      hCG[beta]             78% (51)
                                   hCG                   73% (51)

Saller et al. (1990) (32)          hCG + hCG[beta]       96% (55)

Hoshi et al. (2000) (33)           hCG                   82% (74)
                                   hCG[beta]             74% (74)

Lempiainen et al. (2012) (34)      hCG                   74% (38)
                                   hCG[beta]             79% (38)
                                   hCG-h                 74% (38)

Lempiainen et al. (2014) (35)      hCG                   71% (73)

Javadpour et al. (1978) (37)       hCG[beta] (?)         90% (400)

(a) Original studies reported in the table were retrieved by a
systematic review of literature on Medline and Embase databases by
using the key terms "testicular/testis cancer human chorionic
gonadotropin" and selected if reporting hCG results in patients with
testicular cancer. The search spanned from 1975 to 2016.

(b) The question mark indicates that the reported hCG form does not
comply with the declared assay selectivity or the hCG nomenclature is
COPYRIGHT 2018 American Association for Clinical Chemistry, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Ferraro, Simona; Trevisio, Chiara; Gion, Massimo; Panteghini, Mauro
Publication:Clinical Chemistry
Date:Feb 1, 2018
Previous Article:Commentary.
Next Article:Protein Turnover Measurements in Human Serum by Serial Immunoaffinity LC-MS/MS.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters