Open Access Open Badges Original research article

Serum biomarkers of papillary thyroid cancer

Fawaz M Makki1, S Mark Taylor1, Ali Shahnavaz1, Andrew Leslie3, Jeffrey Gallant3, Susan Douglas3, Evelyn Teh3, Jonathan Trites1, Martin Bullock2, Karen Inglis1, Devanand M Pinto3 and Robert D Hart124*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology, Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and Dalhousie University, 1278 Tower Rd., B3H 2Y9, Halifax, N. S., Canada

2 Department of Pathology, Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and Dalhousie University, 5788 University Ave., B3H 1V8, Halifax, N. S., Canada

3 National Research Council of Canada, Institute for Marine Biosciences, 1411 Oxford St., B3H 4H7, Halifax, N. S., Canada

4 QE II Health Sciences Centre, 5788 Tower Rd., B3H 2Y9, Halifax, N. S., Canada

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Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery 2013, 42:16  doi:10.1186/1916-0216-42-16

Published: 7 February 2013



To identify serum biomarkers of papillary thyroid cancer.


Prospective analysis was performed of banked tumor and serum specimens from 99 patients with thyroid masses. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was employed to measure levels of five serum proteins previously demonstrated to be up-regulated in papillary thyroid cancer (PTC): angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1), cytokeratin 19 (CK-19), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1), chitinase 3 like-1 (YKL-40), and galectin-3 (GAL-3). Serum levels were compared between patients with PTC and those with benign tumors.


A total of 99 patients were enrolled in the study (27 men, 72 women), with a median age of 54 years. Forty-three patients had PTC and 58 cases were benign tumors. There were no statistically significant differences when comparing all five different biomarkers between PTC and other benign thyroid tumors. The p-values were 0.94, 0.48, 0.72, 0.48, and 0.90 for YKL-40, Gal-3, CK19, TIMP-1, and Ang-1, respectively.


Serum levels of four of the five proteins were elevated in patients with thyroid masses relative to normal values. However, the difference between benign and PTC was not significant. Two of the markers (Gal-3 & TIMP-1) displayed a greater potential difference, which may warrant further investigation. This study suggests that other serum markers should be sought. This is the first study to investigate potential serum biomarkers based on over-expressed proteins in thyroid cancer versus benign pathology.

Thyroid; Cancer; Papillary; Serum biomarkers