The feasibility of imaging renal cancers with 2-deoxy-2-[18F]-fluoro-D-glucose (FDG) and whole-body positron emission tomographic scanning was assessed in nude mice with human renal adenocarcinoma xenografts and then in 5 patients with primary renal cancer (4 adenocarcinomas and 1 transitional cell carcinoma). In nude mouse biodistribution studies tumor FDG uptake was maximal at 0.33 to 2 hours but tumor-to-blood ratios increased continuously to 7.8/l. by 4 hours after intravenous FDG injection. In all 5 patients primary and metastatic tumors were imaged within 1 hour by FDG positron emission tomography following intravenous injection of the FDG. By contrast, an hepatic hemangioma did not accumulate FDG. In summary, FDG metabolic and anatomical imaging of primary and metastatic renal cancer is feasible and in these pilot studies appears to be a promising imaging methodology that may be further enhanced by delayed imaging times. Additional study in a larger number of patients is essential to define better the accuracy and potential clinical use of this method.