Sixty-three postmenopausal women with large primary breast cancers were treated with neoadjuvant letrozole (2.5 mg daily) for 3 months. Tumour samples were taken at diagnosis and after 10-14 days and 3 months treatment. Immunohistochemical staining for Ki67, oestrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PgR) was performed and related to clinical (ClinR) and pathological responses (PathR) after 3 months treatment. ClinR was observed in 48 of 63 cases (76.2%) and PathR in 47 of 62 (75.8%). Pretreatment Ki67 scores were similar in responders (R) and non-responders (NR). Highly significant Ki67 decreases occurred in all tumour subgroups at 10-14 days (P<0.005). A significant difference in Ki67 scores at 10-14 days (P<0.007) was found between PathR and PathNR but not between ClinR and ClinNR. At 3 months, decreases from pretreatment Ki67 scores were highly significant in all tumour subgroups irrespective of response status. However, whereas Ki67 scores were significantly different between pathological R and NR (P = 0.009), the corresponding comparison of ClinR status was not. Significant decreases between 10-14 days and 3 months were found only in ClinR and PathR (P = 0.02 and 0.045, respectively). Treatment significantly reduced PgR expression at 14 days and 3 months (both P<0.0001), but the level of changes was not different between response status groups. In summary, letrozole produces rapid and profound decreases in expression of Ki67 and PgR but changes do not always correlate with clinical and pathological responses.