The plasma concentration of the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-B chain and the plasma platelet factor 4 (PF4) levels were measured in 17 healthy controls and 55 brain tumour patients. In the 17 normal controls, the plasma PDGF-B and PF4 levels were 523 +/- 157 pg/ml (mean +/- SD) and 84 +/- 37 ng/ml, respectively. In the brain tumour patients, these values were 881 +/- 854 pg/ml and 93 +/- 64 ng/ml, respectively. The plasma PDGF-B concentration was elevated above the upper limit of normal individuals in 12 (22%) of the 55 patients. However, since the corresponding PF4 levels suggested the platelet activation, the increased plasma PDGF-B may have originated from platelets. To address this, platelet releasing experiments were performed on citrated blood samples from 5 normal individuals. The plasma PDGF-B and PF4 levels from the 17 normal controls and those observed in the platelet releasing experiments correlated with a regression line of Y = 240 + 4.86X (Y:PDGF, X:PF4). There were only 6 (11%) patients whose plasma PDGF-B level was elevated above the 95% confidence limit estimated from the corresponding PF4 value. In these patients, the tumour volumes were extensively large, and those elevated PDGF-B values decreased after treatment and became elevated again in three patients with recurrent glioblastoma. Although the plasma tumour-derived PDGF-B was detected only in an extensively large brain tumour, it might be a useful plasma marker evaluating the effects of therapy and prognosis in such patients.