Angiostatin, a family of fragments originating from the NH2-terminal portion of plasminogen, has been described as a potent inhibitor of angiogenesis. In order to examine to what extent angiostatin can be detected in cancer patients, urine was collected from 117 patients with different types of malignancies and subjected to Western blot analysis, utilizing antibodies raised against "kringles" 1-3 in plasminogen. A heterogeneous mixture of fragments was observed, with patterns that also varied between patients. Angiostatin fragments were quantified by densitometric scanning. The concentrations were 27 +/- 75 (SD) micrograms L-1 (range, 1-565 micrograms L-1) in urine from cancer patients, as compared to 3 +/- 2 (SD) micrograms L-1 (range, 1-10 micrograms L-1) in urine from healthy individuals. Thirty-three patients (28%) had elevated levels using a cut off level at 15 micrograms L-1 (clearly above the highest level obtained among control subjects). NH2-terminal amino acid sequence analysis of purified angiostatin fragments from one patient showed a heterogeneous pattern, but were consistent with the region between the preactivation peptide in plasminogen and "kringle" 1, as expected. Several of the patients with urinary angiostatin showed signs of poor kidney function. We conclude that angiostatin can be detected in urine from cancer patients, but at present, the clinical significance of this finding is unclear.