A two-site immunoradiometric assay (IRMA) of parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) was employed to react with circulating concentrations of PTHrP in 14 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and hypercalcemia (> 10.6 mg/dl). Eleven of them had unresectable lesions and three received transcatheter arterial chemo-embolization (TACE) treatment. Patients had no evidence of bony metastases and only one had evidence of a parathyroid lesion (by bone scan and serum parathyroid hormone level, respectively). The urinary cAMP level was increased in all patients, but the serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and plasma cAMP levels varied. Twelve patients had elevated alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) (> 400 ng/ml) and two of them had mildly elevated AFP levels (11 and 147 ng/ml). Their PTHrP concentrations were elevated (7.1 to 33.2 pmol/l), compared with normal levels obtained in our laboratory (< 3.5 pmol/l). A significant decrease in plasma PTHrP (from 27.4 to 5.2 pmol/l), serum calcium concentrations (from 16.3 to 9.4 mg/dl) and AFP levels (from 64,787 to 3129 ng/ml) was observed on the day following TACE treatment. These results, by using an improved technique, extend the findings that hypercalcemia in patients with HCC is associated with increased renal reabsorption of calcium and increased bone resorption of PTHrP generated by HCC.