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Neuron specific enolase (NSE) is a 78 kDa gamma-homodimer and represents the dominant enolase-isoenzyme found in neuronal and neuroendocrine tissues. Its levels in other tissues, except erythrocytes, are negligible. The biological half-life of NSE in body fluids is approximately 24 hours. Serum neuron-specific enolase (NSE) measurement has its greatest utility in the follow-up of patients with tumors of any type that have been shown to secrete NSE. With successful treatment, serum concentrations should fall with a half-life of approximately 24 hours. Persistent NSE elevations in the absence of other possible causes (see Cautions) suggest persistent tumor. Rising levels indicate tumor spread or, in patients who had previously become NSE negative, recurrence. In the context of a patient with a lung mass, disseminated malignancy of unknown origin or symptoms suggestive of paraneoplastic disease without identifiable tumor, elevated NSE suggests an underlying small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC).
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