Thirty-nine patients with cancer-associated hypercalcaemia were randomly allocated to receive aminohydroxypropylidene diphosphonate (APD), mithramycin, or corticosteroids and salmon calcitonin. Corticosteroids/calcitonin had the fastest calcium-lowering effect, owing mainly to an acute reduction in renal tubular calcium reabsorption; continued therapy over 9 days failed to suppress accelerated bone resorption, however, and most patients remained hypercalcaemic. Mithramycin also substantially reduced serum calcium within 24 h. A further dose on day 2 generally controlled hypercalcaemia until day 6 by reducing both bone resorption and renal tubular calcium reabsorption. By day 9, however, about 50% of the mithramycin-treated patients had started to relapse as bone resorption increased again. With APD serum calcium levels fell more slowly but progressively owing to effective suppression of bone resorption; by day 9 the control of hypercalcaemia was significantly better than in the other treatment groups. Symptoms of hypercalcaemia were greatly relieved, especially by APD.