Background: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and tumor markers (TMs) are two kinds of diagnostic and prognostic markers for lung cancer. CTCs detect tumor cells, while TMs detect molecules in peripheral blood. This study aimed to investigate which marker is a better choice for the diagnosis and prognostication of lung cancer.
Methods: The diagnostic values were compared by generating receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and performing logistic regression analyses. The prognostic values were compared by generating Kaplan-Meier curves of CTCs, TMs, and clinical characteristics.
Results: The ROC curve analysis showed that CEA had the highest AUC (area under curve) among the TMs, while CTCs had a higher AUC than any of the TMs. Logistic regression analysis indicated that gender, smoking status, CTCs, and CA15-3 were involved in lung cancer prediction. The Kaplan-Meier curves showed that smoking status, pleural invasion, lymph node infiltration, and stage I - II disease were related to poor prognosis. Patients with CTCs or CA125 positivity also had a poor prognosis.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that CTCs are a better choice than TMs for the diagnosis and prognostication of lung cancer.