Non-invasive predictive assays which can confirm the presence or absence of hypoxic cells in human tumours show promise for understanding the natural history of tumour oxygenation, and improving the selection of patient subsets for novel radiotherapeutic strategies. Sensitiser adducts have been proposed as markers for hypoxic cells. Misonidazole analogues radiolabelled with iodine-123 have been developed for the detection of tumour hypoxia using conventional nuclear medicine techniques. In this pilot study, we have investigated one such potential marker, 123I-iodoazomycin arabinoside (123I-IAZA). Patients with advanced malignancies have undergone planar and single-photon emission computed tomographic (SPECT) imaging after intravenous administration of 123I-IAZA. We have observed radiotracer avidity in three out of ten tumours studied to date. Normal tissue activity of variable extent was also seen in the thyroid and salivary glands, upper aerodigestive tract, liver, intestine, and urinary bladder. Quantitative analysis of those images showing radiotracer avidity revealed tumour/normal tissue (T/N) ratios of 2.3 (primary small cell lung carcinoma), 1.9 (primary malignant fibrous histiocytoma) and 3.2 (brain metastasis from small cell lung carcinoma) at 18-24 h post injection. These preliminary data suggest that the use of gamma-emitter labelled 2-nitroimidazoles as diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals is feasible and safe, and that metabolic binding of 123I-IAZA is observed in some, but not all tumours. The inference that tumour 123I-IAZA avidity could be a non-invasive measure of tumour hypoxia deserves independent confirmation with needle oximetry.