Angiogenesis plays an important role in multiple myeloma (MM) progression. Various mitogens such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) have been implicated in the angiogenic process of various malignancies. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a growth factor of myeloma cells and its signaling is mediated via a cell surface receptor complex (IL-6r). IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) are involved in the secretion of VEGF by IL-6r expressing myeloma cells. In this study, serum FGF-2, VEGF, IL-6r, and TNF-alpha were measured in 46 untreated MM patients and were studied in relation to disease stage (by Salmon-Durie criteria) and severity [assessed by serum beta(2)-microglobulin (beta(2)M), C-reactive protein (CRP), alpha(1)-antitrypsin (alpha(1)AT), and lactic dehydrogenase (LDH) levels]. The results showed that FGF-2, VEGF, IL-6r, and TNF-alpha were significantly elevated in MM patients in comparison to controls ( p<0.008) and were significantly higher in stage III disease in comparison to stages I and II ( p<0.03). The mean concentrations of IL-6r were 877+/-374, 1220+/-308, 1431+/-878, and 453+/-180 pg/ml for stages I, II, and III and controls, respectively. Levels of beta(2)M, alpha(1)AT, CRP, and LDH were all significantly higher in MM patients than controls and increased with advancing stage of disease. There were positive correlations of both VEGF and FGF-2 with IL-6r, TNF-alpha, beta(2)M, alpha(1)AT, CRP, and LDH. We conclude that IL-6r and TNF-alpha increase in parallel to VEGF and FGF-2 with increasing stage of MM disease. These molecules correlate with biochemical markers of disease activity and may play a role in the progression of multiple myeloma.