Osteopontin (OPN) is a secreted, integrin-binding phosphoprotein that has been implicated in both normal and pathological processes; qualitative increases in OPN blood levels have been reported in a small number of patients with metastatic tumors of various kinds. We measured plasma OPN levels in 70 women with known metastatic breast carcinoma, 44 patient controls who were on follow-up after completion of adjuvant treatment for early breast cancer, and 35 normal volunteers. The median plasma OPN of patients with metastatic disease was 142 microgram/liter (range, 38-1312 microgram/liter) and was significantly different (P < 0.0001, Mann Whitney U test) from both control groups (medians, 60 and 47 microgram/liter; ranges, 15-117 and 22-122 microgram/liter). Furthermore, we found that increasing plasma OPN is associated with shorter survival (P < 0.001) when patients were grouped in terciles for plasma OPN. This was also demonstrated when using a Cox proportional hazards model. Median plasma OPN levels were significantly increased for three or more sites of involvement (median, 232 microgram/liter; n = 13) versus 1 or 2 metastatic sites (medians, 129 and 130 microgram/liter; n = 29 and 28, respectively). Plasma OPN levels were correlated with other biochemical markers related to the extent of disease, such as serum alkaline phosphatase, aspartate succinate aminotransaminase, and albumin (r = 0.81, 0.62, and -0.56, respectively; all P < 0.001). This study demonstrates a statistically significant elevation in plasma OPN in the majority ( approximately 70%) of a large series of patients with metastatic breast cancer when compared (95th percentile) to healthy women or patients who had completed adjuvant treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Furthermore, this is the first study to demonstrate that higher OPN levels in patients with metastatic breast cancer may be associated with an increased number of involved sites and decreased survival.