Angiogenesis has an important role in the progression of solid tumors. Therefore, we measured the blood levels (ELISA) of angiogenic factors [basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)] and soluble adhesion molecules [E-selectin, intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM-1), platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1, and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1] in 76 consecutive patients with untreated renal cell carcinoma and 41 healthy controls to evaluate their prognostic value. The serum levels of bFGF, hepatocyte growth factor, and VEGF were significantly higher in patients with renal cancer than they were in healthy subjects. bFGF and VEGF values were significantly higher in patients with disseminated cancer (N+ and/or M+) than they were in those with undisseminated (M-N-) cancer: median = 27 pg/ml, range = 5-118, n = 15 versus median = 8 pg/ml, range = 1-149, n = 61 (P = 10(-4)) for bFGF; and median = 883 pg/ml, range = 200-2317, n = 15 versus median = 278 pg/ml, range = 0-1704, n = 61 (P = 0.006) for VEGF. The blood levels of ICAM-1 and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 were significantly higher, and the levels of E-selectin and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 were significantly lower in patients with renal cancer than they were in controls. Plasma ICAM-1 was higher in metastatic patients (M+) than they were in nonmetastatic (M-) patients: median = 687 ng/ml, range = 294-1091, n = 12 versus median = 408 ng/ml, range = 217-1375, n = 64 (P = 10(-4)). ICAM-1 and bFGF blood values were correlated with the size of the primary tumor. The interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) values of these patients have been previously published and are included in the survival analysis. Univariate analysis showed that bFGF, ICAM-1, interleukin 6, and TNF-alpha, before treatment, were prognostic factors. In multivariate analysis for proportional hazard regression, only TNF-alpha was an independent prognostic indicator, with a normal plasma TNF-alpha being highly predictive for a good prognosis in patients with untreated renal cell carcinoma.