The authors investigated the influence of methotrexate (MTX) serum concentration on (histologically evaluated) tumor necrosis, induced by a primary multiagent chemotherapy, including MTX, for osteosarcoma. MTX serum peaks in 151 patients, preoperatively treated with MTX (8-12g/m2), cisplatin (120mg/m2) and Adriamycin (60mg/m2), were analyzed. Significantly (p < 0.01) higher serum MTX mean peaks were observed in patients with complete tumor necrosis (MTX 773.8 mumol/l) compared to patients with 90-99% tumor necrosis (639.8 mumol/l), 50-89% tumor necrosis (649.1 mumol/l) or less than 50% tumor necrosis (610 mumol/l). Complete tumor necrosis was observed in 9% of patients with MTX peaks of less than 600 mumol/l, in 27% of patients with serum MTX peaks between 600 and 699 mumol/l and in 37% of those with MTX peaks ranging from 700 to 799 mumol/l. Higher MTX peaks (800-899, 900-999, > 1000 mumol/l) were not associated with a further increase of cases with complete tumor necrosis. 40% of patients with an MTX peak greater than 700 mumol/l had complete tumor necrosis, compared to 15.5% of patients who did not reach this value (p < 0.002). At a multivariant analysis including age, sex, tumor site and volume, pretreatment serum alkaline phosphatase and lactic dehydrogenase levels, MTX peaks of 700 mumol/l and, less significantly, the histologic type (telangiectatic osteosarcoma), were independent factors influencing tumor necrosis. The authors conclude that MTX serum peaks significantly influence chemotherapy-induced tumor necrosis in osteosarcoma. In a primary treatment consisting of cisplatin, Adriamycin and MTX, complete tumor necrosis can be obtained in 40% of patients with MTX peak concentrations > or = 700 mumol/l.