Research Article

Relative contribution of humoral and metastatic factors to the pathogenesis of hypercalcaemia in malignancy.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 12 May 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:1405
  1. S H Ralston,
  2. I Fogelman,
  3. M D Gardiner,
  4. I T Boyle


    Some relations between metastatic bone disease and calcium homoeostasis were determined in a consecutive series of 81 patients with solid malignant tumours attending for radionuclide bone scans. Biochemical evaluation showed that bone resorption from metastatic disease was generally not enough to account for hypercalcaemia. While skeletal metastases were present in about half of the patients who developed hypercalcaemia, biochemical indices of bone resorption in these subjects were greatly increased and disproportionate to the extent of metastatic disease detected by the bone scans. Furthermore, a reduced renal phosphate threshold and increased tubular calcium reabsorption were generally observed in hypercalcaemic patients when compared with their normocalcaemic counterparts. These findings suggest that in most cases malignancy associated hypercalcaemia may be caused by the release of a humoral factor by tumour tissue which exhibits "parathyroid-hormone-like" activity with regard to bone resorption, renal phosphate threshold, and renal calcium handling. It may be postulated that this putative humoral mediator predisposes to hypercalcaemia both by stimulating generalised osteolysis and in most cases also by impairing the renal excretion of the resultant increase in filtered calcium load. While hypercalcaemia may arise as a result of metastatic bone disease alone, these data indicate that this may be the exception rather than the rule. Hence the term "metastatic hypercalcaemia" should probably be reserved for patients with extensive skeletal tumour disease in whom biochemical evaluation fails to yield evidence of an underlying humorally mediated cause.