Forty-three patients with large (greater than or equal to 4 cm) but operable carcinoma of the breast have been treated by endocrine manipulation before definitive local surgery. This has allowed the study of the relationship between response to therapy and pretreatment oestrogen receptor (ER) concentration, as measured by a dextran-coated charcoal adsorption method. Premenopausal patients (17) were treated by surgical (4) or medical (13) oophorectomy. Post-menopausal patients (26) received either tamoxifen (10) or an aromatase inhibitor (16). Response was assessed from statistical analysis of the changes in tumour size. On completion of 12 weeks of endocrine therapy, there was significant regression of tumour size in 18 of the 43 patients. All 18 patients had tumours with ER concentrations of greater than or equal to 20 fmol mg-1 cytosol protein. Conversely all patients except one progressing on treatment had tumours with ER concentrations of less than 20 fmol mg-1 cytosol protein. This relationship applied for both premenopausal and post-menopausal patients. The overall response rate of patients with tumours of ER concentration greater than or equal to 20 fmol mg-1 cytosol protein was 60%.