Human neoplasms are heterogeneous for a variety of biological properties that include invasion and metastasis. The presence of a small subpopulation of cells with a highly metastatic phenotype has important clinical implications for diagnosis and therapy of cancer. For this reason, it is important to develop an animal model for the selection and isolation of metastatic variants from human neoplasms and for testing the metastatic potential of human tumor cells. We have implanted human renal cell carcinoma (HRCC) cells (obtained from a surgical specimen) into different organs of nude mice and then recovered the tumors and established each in culture. The 5 established lines differed in their biological-metastatic properties and had a unique karyotype, indicating that growth at different organs selects for different subpopulations of HRCC. Moreover, the HRCC did not metastasize unless they were implanted orthotopically. These findings indicate that the appropriate nude mouse model for studying the biology and therapy of HRCC must be based on the orthotopic implantation of tumor cells.