Introduction: Serum procalcitonin (PCT) is a biomarker used routinely to diagnose infections.
Some malignancies are usual false positives for PCT. However, its value and behavior in the
setting of lung cancers are poorly known. The objective of this study was to assess PCT positivity in a
lung cancer cases series. Method: Between November 2011 and September 2012, all cases of newly
diagnosed lung cancer with a pre-antineoplastic PCT assay and no patent signs of infection were included
in the study. All PCT levels were assessed by immunofluorescent assay in a single laboratory.
Results: Eighty-nine patients were included (70.8% male; mean age 62; small-cell cancer 20.2%; stage IV cancer 60.7%).
Overall, PCT was positive in 42%. A neuroendocrine component, having 2 or more metastatic sites, having a pleura or a
liver metastasis, and being positive for CRP were all significantly associated with positive PCT in univariate analysis. In
multivariate analysis, only the presence of a neuroendocrine component remained strongly associated with a positive PCT
(AOR=7.24 [CI=95% 1.91-27.51]; P=0.004). Finally, baseline PCT levels >0.5 µg/l were found in 43% of NSCLC with a
neuroendocrine component, vs. 9% of cancers with other histology (P=0.0001). Conclusion: Lung cancer may cause false
positives for procalcitonin, particularly in cases of neuroendocrine cancers or in the presence of multiple metastases.
These results should be taken into account for PCT-based decisional algorithms.