Parathyroid hormone (PTH) and PTH-related protein/peptide (PTHrP) bind to the same PTH/PTHrP receptor and stimulate osteoblasts to secrete pro-inflammatory cytokines like interleukin (IL)-6. In patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, elevation of plasma levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and IL-6 was also described. We, therefore, postulated that PTHrP secreted from cancer cells stimulates the secretion of cytokines and causes increases in their blood levels. Blood concentrations of several cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-5, IL-6, IL-8, IL-11 and IL-12) in cancer-bearing patients with or without elevation of blood PTHrP were measured by ELISA. The patients with high plasma PTHrP levels (n=29, intact PTHrP: 8.5 +/- 1.4 pmol/l, normal: <1.1) had higher serum type 1 collagen C-telopeptide (ICTP). Twenty of the patients were hypercalcemic. Plasma concentrations of TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IL-8 were significantly increased in patients with high PTHrP, in either the presence or absence of hypercalcemia. The concentrations of TNF-alpha and IL-6 were also significantly correlated with those of PTHrP. Our observations indicate that high plasma levels of PTHrP in cancer-bearing patients contribute not only to the development of hypercalcemia, but also to the development of the syndrome caused by an excess of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
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