The relationship of iron-binding proteins to prognosis was studied in 50 children at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, newly diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease (HD). There were five patients with Stage I, 18 with Stage II, 14 with Stage III, and 13 with Stage IV. Initial serum ferritin, transferrin, iron, hemoglobin (Hb), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and A or B symptoms were analyzed for their association with progression-free survival (PFS). There was a linear increase of mean and median ferritin levels and a decrease of mean and median transferrin levels with advancing stages. Also, there was a significant inverse correlation between ferritin and transferrin (P less than 0.001). In univariate analyses, high ferritin (greater than 142 ng/ml) (P = 0.02) and low transferrin (less than or equal to 250 mg/dl) (P = 0.008) were significantly associated with poor PFS. Serum iron, Hb, ESR, and A or B symptoms were not associated with PFS. Stepwise proportional hazards regression analysis of all factors showed that transferrin was the only factor significantly associated with PFS. These preliminary results suggest that serum transferrin can also be used as a prognostic factor in addition to serum ferritin and that it may be helpful to assay both serum ferritin and transferrin as prognostic factors in childhood HD. Further testing of large groups of patients is needed to determine whether they are independent of tumor bulk and other established prognostic factors.