Immunohistochemical staining for parathyroid hormone-related protein was performed in 27 tumours from 19 normocalcaemic and eight hypercalcaemic patients with cancer. All the tumours from hypercalcaemic patients stained positively for the protein, as did 17 tumours from normocalcaemic patients. Only hypercalcaemic patients had biochemical evidence of increased bone resorption and abnormalities of renal tubular reabsorption of calcium and phosphate, consistent with the presence of parathyroid hormone-related protein. While tumour mass was higher in hypercalcaemic patients, only one of the initially normocalcaemic patients with positively staining tumours subsequently went on to develop hypercalcaemia and more advanced disease. These data confirm the importance of parathyroid hormone-related protein as a mediator of humoral hypercalcaemia in patients with solid tumours and suggest that low tumour mass may be one reason why serum calcium values are not increased in all patients with tumours containing parathyroid hormone-related protein. None the less normocalcaemia, despite tumour progression in patients whose tumours stained positively for parathyroid hormone-related protein, suggests that other factors may also be important, such as differences in the rate of secretion of the protein by different tumours, or the production of different forms of parathyroid hormone-related protein with varying biological effects.
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