The levels of the enzyme neuron-specific enolase (NSE) are significantly increased in the serum of patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma compared to that of healthy individuals, according to a new study published in Novelty in Clinical Medicine.

This finding suggests that NSE could be a biomarker for the disease but more research is needed. It is very important to diagnose and treat medullary thyroid carcinoma early as it can quickly spread and be fatal, the authors said. Biomarkers that can help diagnose the disease are therefore of great value.

Here, a team of researchers from the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, Iran assessed whether NSE could be a biomarker of medullary thyroid cancer. They measured its levels in the serum of 90 patients with cancer and compared it to the levels in the serum of 90 healthy volunteers. 

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The results showed that the mean serum levels of NSE in medullary thyroid carcinoma patients was significantly higher than that of healthy volunteers with 23.91±2.1 µg/L compared to 5.11±0.38 µg/L.

“These preliminary findings suggest that NSE may be associated with medullary thyroid carcinoma or increase the risk of developing the disease,” the researchers wrote.

“Further studies are needed to investigate more closely so that the biomarker may be used to diagnose or confirm the diagnosis of medullary thyroid cancer and to predict the occurrence of cancer.”

NSE is found in adult neurons and neuronal cell and neuroendocrine tissue precursors. It is already used as a tumor marker in lung cancer, neuroblastoma, and neuroendocrine-derived cancers.

The idea of testing it as a biomarker in medullary thyroid cancer stems from the fact that in many cancer cells, biomarkers are secreted in response to a tumor and not necessarily by the tumor itself.


Abbasalipourkabir R, Hedayati M, Sheikh N, Ebadi SA. Comparison of neuron-specific enolase (NSE) serum level in patients with medullary thyroid carcinoma and healthy individuals: case control study. Novelty in Clinical Medicine. 2022;1(1):26-31.