Thirty-one bone marrow aspirations were performed on patients with prostatic carcinoma metastatic to bone. After separation over a Ficoll-Hypaque gradient viable nucleated cells were cultured in semisolid agar. Colony formation occurred in 14 of 27 (52%) nonbacterially contaminated cultures. Characterization of cells from the colonies showed them to be consistent with malignant prostate cells. After staining, these cells were periodic acid-Schiff positive, prostatic acid phosphatase positive, and prostatic specific antigen positive. Other studies demonstrated the cells to be karyotypically abnormal, ultrastructurally similar to epithelial cells, and capable of secondary colony formation. Three bone marrow aspirate specimens did not have metastatic prostatic carcinoma detected by standard methods but did demonstrate colony formation. However, colony formation was most frequently seen when a radionuclide scan was positive at the aspiration site and when tumor cells were microscopically detectable by Wright staining of a smeared aspirate. The potential utility of colony forming cultures in prostate cancer is discussed. In working with bone marrow aspirates, additional cell separation procedures may be required to calculate and maximize plating efficiencies.