Hypercalcaemia associated with malignancy is generally thought to carry a poor prognosis. Of 47 consecutive patients with hypercalcaemia and malignancy, serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) was elevated in seven, consistent with co-existing hyperparathyroidism. Median survival from onset of hypercalcaemia in these seven patients was 817 days; compared to 33 days in the remaining 40 patients with hypercalcaemia of malignancy, in whom PTH was suppressed (p = 0.007). Among patients with hypercalcaemia of malignancy, plasma PTH-related protein (PTHrP) concentration showed no correlation with survival (r2 = 2.1%), but one patient with increased levels of both PTH and PTHrP survived only nine days after the onset of hypercalcaemia. A raised PTH had a positive predictive value of 86% for survival > 100 days, and of 71% for survival > 1 year. A raised plasma PTHrP predicted death within 100 days with a positive predictive value of 69%. We conclude that measurement of serum PTH is indicated in patients with hypercalcaemia and malignancy to identify the 15% with hyperparathyroidism, since this is associated with prolonged survival. In patients with hyperparathyroidism, assay of plasma PTHrP may indicate concurrent hypercalcaemia of malignancy, with an associated poor prognosis.
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