The urinary polyamines putrescine, spermidine and spermine were measured prior to operation in 10 patients with colorectal cancer and 10 control subjects. Carcinoembryonic antigen assays were also performed in an attempt to correlate these values with polyamine excretion. The total polyamine rates in patients with colorectal cancer were 3.2 +/- 1.5 (SD) mg/24 h and 2.6 +/- 1.2 (SD) mg/24 h in the controls. The difference between the group with colorectal cancer and the controls was not statistically significant. Urinary polyamines were also measured in an experimental animal model for colorectal cancer in which tumour cell mass could be assessed. Only marginal differences occurred in polyamine rates between animals with extensive tumours and controls. These findings suggest that urinary polyamine measurement is unlikely to be a useful procedure to assess tumour cell mass in patients with colorectal cancer.
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