We developed a simple and rapid method to enrich tumor cells within bone marrow (BM) aspirates from patients with multiple myeloma (MM). Thirty patients with a median of 50% (8-85%) MM cells by morphology and 55% (6--85%) MM cells identified by CD38+CD45-cell surface phenotype were studied. BM mononuclear cells (BMMCs) were isolated by Ficoll Hypaque sedimentation and incubated with a cocktail of mouse monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) directed against CD3 (T cells); CD11b and CD14 (monocytes); CD33 (myeloid cells), CD45 and CD45RA (leucocyte common antigen); CD32 as well as glycophorin A. After the addition of anti-mouse Fc Ig-coated immunomagnetic beads, mAb-bound cells were removed in a magnetic field. The residual cell populations were enriched for MM cells, evidenced by >95% plasma cell morphology and >95% CD38+CD45RA-cell surface phenotype. Since this method requires only two short incubations, cell losses were minimal and the yield of MM cells was therefore high (>95%). Viability of the MM-cell enriched fractions was 99%, and these cells were functional in assays of proliferation, cell cycle analysis and immunoglobulin secretion. This immunomagnetic bead depletion method therefore permits the ready isolation of homogeneous populations of patient MM cells for use in both cellular and molecular studies.