Parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) is associated with the syndrome of humoral hypercalcemia of malignancy. A high incidence of positive staining for PTHrP is observed in breast cancer and positivity is more frequent in patients who develop bone metastases. We assessed the presence of PTHrP mRNA by using the polymerase chain reaction in 38 normocalcemic breast cancer patients with long-term follow-up (minimum, 5 years) selected for the presence or absence of later bone metastasis development. In all the patients except one, the PTHrP gene was expressed in the breast tumor. The level of amplified PTHrP complementary DNA was inversely related to age (P < 0.02) and positively related to the proportion of invaded nodes (P < 0.02) but was not related to the other usual prognostic factors. The level of PTHrP mRNA was not different between the group of patients without recurrence or metastases (n = 11) and the group of patients who later developed metastases in soft tissues (n = 10). By contrast, patients who subsequently developed bone metastases (n = 17) showed higher PTHrP gene expression than patients in the other two groups (P < 0.001). This study suggests that strong PTHrP gene expression in breast tumors is associated with the onset of bone metastases.

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Supported by the Federation Nationale des Gefluc and by Grant 6954 from the Association pour la Recherche sur le Cancer.

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