Comparison of Neuron-specific Enolase (NSE) Serum Level in Patients with Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma and Healthy individuals: Case-Control Study

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Hamadan University of Medical Sciences, Hamadan, Iran

2 Cellular and Molecular Endocrine Research Center, Research Institute for Endocrine Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


Background: Medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) is rare but invasive and fatal; therefore, rapid diagnosis and treatment are important in the management of this disease. In many types of cancer, biomarkers are secreted in response to the presence of the tumor, i.e. they are not necessarily secreted by the tumor itself, so the Neuron-specific enolase (NSE) biomarker, which is mostly present in neuroendocrine tissues, was selected for assay in the present study.
Objectives: The aim of this case-control study was to measure and compare NSE serum biomarker levels in patients with MTC and healthy individuals.
Methods: In the current case-control study, patients with MTC, for whom no treatment has yet been performed, were included in the case group as well as healthy individuals as a control group. Demographic and anthropometric data including age, sex, marital status, smoking, history of disease and drug use, BMI of patients and healthy individuals were recorded. Five ml blood was collected from all participants to measure serum NSE levels by using an ELISA kit. All statistical analyses were performed with SPSS (version 16.0, SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL, USA). A “P value” less than 0.05 was considered significant.
Results: Ninety patients with MTC in the case group and 90 healthy subjects in the control group were evaluated. Demographic and anthropometric data were matched between the case and control groups (P <0.05). The MTC group consisted of 39 men (43.3%) and 51 women (56.7%) with a mean age of 29.7±12.8 years, and the healthy group included 42 (46.7%) men and 48 (53.3%) women with a mean age of 30.5±11.2 years. The results of ELISA test showed that the mean serum level of NSE in patients with MTC was 23.91±2.1 µg/L and in the healthy subjects was 5.11±0.38 µg/L. Significant differences were observed between the serum concentration of NSE in the control and MTC groups (p=0.001).
Conclusion: In the present study, the serum levels of NSE had significantly increased in patients with MTC compared to the healthy subjects. These preliminary findings suggest that NSE can be associated with MTC, and further studies are needed.