Liver cancer and gastric cancer are the most common solid tumors worldwide. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) production and lack of response to TGF-beta growth inhibitory effects have been associated with tumor progression and therapeutic resistance. HepG2, Hep3B, and SK-HEP-1 human liver cancer lines produce 3, 5.7, and 2.5 ng TGF-beta1; 1.4, 2, and 4 ng TGF-beta2 and 0.15, 0.2 and 0.22 ng TGF-beta3 per 107 cells (24 h). Expression of the TGF-beta type I receptor is 20x, 1x, and 0.6x the level in mink lung MvLu1 cells in the HepG2, Hep3B, and SK-HEP-1 cells, respectively. HepG2 and Hep3B cells do not express the TGF-beta type II receptor while SK-HEP-1 cells express 7x the level found in mink lung MvLu1 cells. Hs 746T, KATO III, RF-1, and RF-48 human gastric cancer cell lines produce 12. 5, 0.35, 0.4, and 0.4 ng TGF-beta1; 2.6, 0.95, 0.5, and 0.52 ng TGF-beta2 and 0.42, 0.17, 0.12, and 0.14 ng TGF-beta3 per 107 cells (24 h). Expression of TGF-beta type I receptor is 0.7x, 0.7x, 0.8x, 0.6x the level in mink lung MvLu1 cells in the Hs 746T, KATO III, RF-1 and RF-48 cells, respectively. KATO III cells are lacking in the TGF-beta type II receptor while Hs 746T, RF-1 and RF-48 cells express 10x, 0.8x, and 1x the levels in mink lung MvLu1 cells. The IC50 for TGF-beta1 is >>10 ng/ml in all of these lines except RF-48 where TGF-beta1 is mitogenic. The response of the cell lines to radiation, doxorubicin, mitomycin C, cisplatin, 5-fluorouracil, methotrexate, and gemcitabine showed that SK-HEP-1 was the most drug resistant liver cancer cell line and KATO III was the most drug resistant gastric cancer cell line. Overall, there was no correlation between TGF-beta secretion in cell culture and sensitivity of the cells to anticancer agents. Increased TGF-beta1 levels were detectable in the plasma of nude mice bearing Hep3B and Hs 746T xenografts. Those tumors which secreted greater amounts of TGF-beta were more therapeutically resistant in vivo.