Prognostic relevance and performance characteristics of serum IGFBP-2 and PAPP-A in women with breast cancer: A long-term Danish cohort study

Ulrick Espelund, Andrew G. Renehan, Søren Cold, Claus Oxvig, Lee Lancashire, Zhenqiang Su, Allan Flyvbjerg, Jan Frystyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measurement of circulating insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), in particular IGF-binding protein (IGFBP)-2, at the time of diagnosis, is independently prognostic in many cancers, but its clinical performance against other routinely determined prognosticators has not been examined. We measured IGF-I, IGF-II, pro-IGF-II, IGF bioactivity, IGFBP-2, -3, and pregnancy-associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A), an IGFBP regulator, in baseline samples of 301 women with breast cancer treated on four protocols (Odense, Denmark: 1993-1998). We evaluated performance characteristics (expressed as area under the curve, AUC) using Cox regression models to derive hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for 10-year recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS), and compared those against the clinically used Nottingham Prognostic Index (NPI). We measured the same biomarkers in 531 noncancer individuals to assess multidimensional relationships (MDR), and evaluated additional prognostic models using survival artificial neural network (SANN) and survival support vector machines (SSVM), as these enhance capture of MDRs. For RFS, increasing concentrations of circulating IGFBP-2 and PAPP-A were independently prognostic [HRbiomarker doubling: 1.474 (95% CIs: 1.160, 1.875, P = 0.002) and 1.952 (95% CIs: 1.364, 2.792, P < 0.001), respectively]. The AUCRFS for NPI was 0.626 (Cox model), improving to 0.694 (P = 0.012) with the addition of IGFBP-2 plus PAPP-A. Derived AUCRFS using SANN and SSVM did not perform superiorly. Similar patterns were observed for OS. These findings illustrate an important principle in biomarker qualification-measured circulating biomarkers may demonstrate independent prognostication, but this does not necessarily translate into substantial improvement in clinical performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCancer Medicine
Early online date9 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Breast neoplasms
  • Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 2
  • Pregnancy-associated plasma protein A

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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