Disseminated carcinimatosis of the bone marrow is accompanied by solid tumors, and gastric cancer accounts for the majority. The prognosis of this condition is poor, however, the pathogenesis for wide-spread bone lesions has yet to be elucidated. In 9 patients with gastric cancer demonstrating disseminated carcinomatosis of the bone marrow, the characteristic clinicopathological features were examined. Immunohistochemistry for receptor activator of NF-kappaB ligand (RANKL) and parathyroid hormone-related protein was also performed on gastric cancer tissue and bone marrow specimens to identify the factors responsible for the occurrence of bone lesions in patients presenting with this condition. The characteristic features of disseminated carcinomatosis of the bone marrow due to gastric cancer include a yonger patient age, an elevation of serum alkaline phosphatase and/or lactate dehydrogenase levels, wide-spread bone metastases with osteolytic bone destruction, a low incidence of hypercalcemia and a histological gastric cancer type of either signet ring cell carcinoma or poorly diffentiated adenocarcinoma. The expression of RANKL, which is one of the master regulators of osteoclastic bone resorption in bone metastasis, was also found in gastric cancer cells obtained from such patients. The RANKL expressed in gastric cancer may therefore play a critical role in the promotion of osteoclast formation, which has been suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of bone lesions.