BACKGROUND: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is of paramount importance as a diagnostic tool for the detection and monitoring of patients with prostate cancer. In the presence of interfering factors such as heterophilic antibodies or anti-PSA antibodies the PSA test can yield significantly falsified results. The prevalence of these factors is unknown.
METHODS: We determined the recovery of PSA concentrations diluting patient samples with a standard serum of known PSA concentration. Based on the frequency distribution of recoveries in a pre-study on 268 samples, samples with recoveries <80% or >120% were defined as suspect, re-tested and further characterized to identify the cause of interference.
RESULTS: A total of 1158 consecutive serum samples were analyzed. Four samples (0.3%) showed reproducibly disturbed recoveries of 10%, 68%, 166% and 4441%. In three samples heterophilic antibodies were identified as the probable cause, in the fourth anti-PSA-autoantibodies. The very low recovery caused by the latter interference was confirmed in serum, as well as heparin- and EDTA plasma of blood samples obtained 6 months later. Analysis by eight different immunoassays showed recoveries ranging between <10% and 80%. In a follow-up study of 212 random plasma samples we found seven samples with autoantibodies against PSA which however did not show any disturbed PSA recovery.
CONCLUSIONS: About 0.3% of PSA determinations by the electrochemiluminescence assay (ECLIA) of Roche diagnostics are disturbed by heterophilic or anti-PSA autoantibodies. Although they are rare, these interferences can cause relevant misinterpretations of a PSA test result.