We measured levels of basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2) in human colon cancer cells (clone A) in vitro and in xenografted solid tumours using a commercial enzyme-linked immunoassay. In Vitro, levels in unfed plateau phase or exponentially growing cells were low, averaging respectively about 2 and 8 pg 10(-6) cells. However, when solid tumours (average volumes 787 mm3) were cut into halves and either enzymatically disaggregated to obtain a cellular fraction or extracted in toto, levels were much higher. In the cellular fraction, values averaged 110 pg 10(-6) cells, while in whole tumour extracts, average values were 24 pg mg-1 tumour tissue. These results indicate that growth factor levels in solid neoplasms may differ markedly from those predicted from in vitro measurements. We hypothesise that the apparent increase in FGF-2 levels in vivo results primarily from the presence of a significant fraction of host cells (in particular, macrophages, which may contain high levels of FGF-2) within xenografted clone A neoplasms.