Newcastle Laboratories

Alpha-foetoprotein, serum

Clinical Background:

AFP is a glycoprotein secreted by the yolk-sac and liver of the foetus and is therefore absent in the serum of healthy adults. It is also produced by a variety of tumours including hepatocellular c...

AFP is a glycoprotein secreted by the yolk-sac and liver of the foetus and is therefore absent in the serum of healthy adults. It is also produced by a variety of tumours including hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatoblastoma, and nonseminomatous germ cell tumors of the ovary and testis (eg, yolk sac and embryonal carcinoma). It is useful in the follow-up management of patients undergoing cancer therapy and often used in conjunction with human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Whilst its function is unknown, its amino-acid sequence shows similarities with albumin and suggests a carrier protein function. It has a half-life in the region of 4.5 - 6 days.

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Test Details

  • Discipline:

    Biochemistry

    Biochemistry

  • Specimen Container Adult:

    Serum-SST

    Serum-SST

  • Specimen Container Paediatric:

    Serum-Plain tube

    Serum-Plain tube

  • Minimum Volume Adult:

    1 mL blood

    1 mL blood

  • Minimum Volume Paediatric:

    1 mL blood

    1 mL blood

  • Sample Stability:

    Unseparated: Unknown
    Separated: at +2° to +8°C 7 days

    Unseparated: Unknown
    Separated: at +2° to +8°C 7 days

  • Interpretation:

    Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is produced in early fetal life by the liver and by a variety of tumors including hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatoblastoma, and nonseminomatous germ cell tumors of the ovary...

    Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is produced in early fetal life by the liver and by a variety of tumors including hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatoblastoma, and nonseminomatous germ cell tumors of the ovary and testis (eg, yolk sac and embryonal carcinoma). Most studies report elevated AFP concentrations in approximately 70% of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Elevated AFP concentrations are found in 50% to 70% of patients with nonseminomatous testicular tumors.
    AFP is elevated during pregnancy. Persistence of AFP in the mother following birth is a rare hereditary condition. Neonates have markedly elevated AFP levels (>100,000 ng/mL) that rapidly fall to below 100 ng/mL by 150 days and gradually return to normal over their first year.
    Concentrations of AFP above the reference range but rarely exceeding 400 KU/L have also been found in serum of patients with benign liver disease (eg, viral hepatitis, cirrhosis), gastrointestinal tract tumors and, along with carcinoembryonic antigen in ataxia telangiectasia.
    Levels correlate with tumour burden and high concentrations indicate a poor prognosis.

    Low AFP with high CEA is indicative of liver metastases.

    AFP is not recommended as a screening procedure for cancer detection in the general population.

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  • Reference Ranges:

    - Age 1 year to 3 years: 3 – 21 kU/L

    - Age 3 years and over: 0 – 6 kU/L

    AFP levels are very high at birth and fall within the first weeks of life with a half-life of 5.5 days. Suggest repeat within...

    - Age 1 year to 3 years: 3 – 21 kU/L

    - Age 3 years and over: 0 – 6 kU/L

    AFP levels are very high at birth and fall within the first weeks of life with a half-life of 5.5 days. Suggest repeat within 24 hours to monitor trend if concerned.

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  • Factors Affecting Result:

    There is no high dose hook effect at AFP concentrations up to 1.21 x 106 kU/L
    Heterophilic antibodies can interfere with immunoassays.

    There is no high dose hook effect at AFP concentrations up to 1.21 x 106 kU/L
    Heterophilic antibodies can interfere with immunoassays.

  • Other Info:

    Plasma- Lithium Heparin also acceptable

    Plasma- Lithium Heparin also acceptable

  • Routine Contact Name:

    Duty Biochemist

  • Routine Telephone:

    Freeman: 0191 244 8889
    RVI: 0191 282 9719

    Freeman: 0191 244 8889
    RVI: 0191 282 9719

  • Routine Email:

    - For external users: TNU-Tr.duty.biochemist@nhs.net

    - For Trust users: DutyBiochemist@nuth.nhs.uk

Availability:

Available during full access hours

Assayed daily

Site of analysis: FRH

Turn Around:

Urgent: within 1 hour

Non-urgent: within 1 day

Send To:

Department of Blood Sciences

Freeman Hospital
Freeman Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE7 7DN

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