A sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for measuring serum thyroglobulin (Tg) is described. The assay has a functional sensitivity of 0.03 ng/mL and values obtained in sera from patients with treated differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC; n = 24, 17 of whom showed some evidence of recurrence) and from healthy blood donors (n = 48) were in agreement with those obtained by Tg immunoradiometric assay (IRMA) (functional sensitivity = 0.6 ng/ml) (r = 0.99 and 0.98 for the two groups, respectively). The Tg levels measured by ELISA in 47 of the healthy blood donor sera ranged from 2.3 to 139 ng/ml with 1 serum giving a value of 0.03 ng/mL. The mean +/- standard deviation (SD) Tg concentration for the healthy blood donors was 20.3+/-23 ng/mL. Studies with a recovery test suggest that Tg measurements by ELISA were not always reliable when Tg autoantibodies were present. Analysis of samples from 167 patients treated successfully for DTC (papillary carcinoma, 94; follicular carcinoma, 73) showed that 139 were negative for Tg autoantibodies and of these 106 (76%) had Tg levels measurable by ELISA (0.03 ng/mL or greater). In contrast, only 7 (5%) of these 139 sera had Tg levels measurable by IRMA (0.6 ng/mL or greater). It is possible that this ability to measure Tg simply and easily in most treated DTC patients will have significant advantages for patient care. In particular, the Tg level after initial ablative treatment will usually be measurable rather than undetectable. Furthermore, any increases in serum Tg levels which may herald relapse will be detectable earlier.