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J Pathol. 1996 Apr;178(4):398-401.

Lung tumours immunoreactive for parathyroid hormone related peptide: analysis of serum calcium levels and tumour type.

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University Department of Pathology, Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, U.K.


Secretion by tumours of parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP) in quantities sufficient to raise circulating levels results in the syndrome of humoral hypercalcaemia of malignancy (HHM). Since HHM is commonly associated with squamous carcinoma of lung and rarely with adenocarcinoma or lung neuroendocrine tumours, immunopositivity was related to tumour type, to assess whether this difference was due to a low general incidence of PTHrP expression in the latter two groups. Seventy-six of 82 tumours were immunopositive: 22 of 22 squamous carcinomas, 21 of 25 small cell lung carcinomas, 14 of 15 carcinoids, and 19 of 20 adenocarcinomas. These data confirm and extend previous observations on squamous and neuroendocrine tumours but are in contrast with previous findings in adenocarcinoma, which have suggested that only a small proportion of cases express the peptide. They suggest that the differences in incidence of HHM in the various tumour types are due to patterns of secretion, rather than differences in expression of PTHrP. The second aim of this study was therefore to assess whether tumours immunopositive for PTHrP, but not associated with HHM, might secrete PTHrP at levels which might result in more subtle changes in calcium metabolism. Preoperative calcium levels were analysed in a series of 56 patients with immunopositive lung tumours of all types. One small cell carcinoma was associated with hypercalcaemia, but there was no evidence of any other alteration in serum calcium. These data indicate that the majority of tumours expressing PTHrP do not secrete it in amounts sufficient to alter calcium metabolism.

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