Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a potent angiogenic factor. The aim of our study was to evaluate plasma HGF levels and their prognostic significance in patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). The sandwich enzyme immunoassay technique was used to quantify HGF in stored samples obtained before treatment from patients with AML (59 patients) and MDS (42 patients) treated at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. HGF levels were significantly higher in patients with AML or MDS than in healthy individuals (P < 0.0001). Higher HGF levels in both AML and MDS correlated significantly with white blood cell (P = 0.000001 for both groups) and monocyte counts (P = 0.0004 and 0.003, respectively), and with poor performance status (P = 0.03 and 0.001, respectively). Using Cox proportional hazard model and HGF levels as a continuous variable, plasma levels of HGF correlated with shorter survival of AML (P = 0.001), but not MDS (P = 0.34) patients. No significant correlation was observed between HGF levels and complete remission rate or duration. In the multivariate analysis HGF retained its significance as prognostic factor in AML (P = 0.02), along with age (P = 0.0005).