Extramedullary tissue infiltrates of acute myeloid leukemia are rare and often difficult to recognize in routine paraffin-embedded tissue sections. Since appropriate therapy for these tumors depends on their precise identification, we have studied a series of tissues infiltrated with primitive myeloid cells using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies capable of labeling cells of the myeloid/monocytic system in paraffin-embedded tissue sections. The current retrospective study involved tissues from 15 patients (eight men and seven women) with a mean age of 51 years (range, 23-77). A diagnosis of extramedullary myeloid cell tumors had been made on the basis of routine histology, chloroacetate esterase cytochemical stain, and--in some cases--electron microscopy. Paraffin-embedded tissue sections were cut and stained employing the alkaline phosphatase antialkaline phosphatase (APAAP) immunocytochemical procedure with monoclonal antibodies against leukocyte-common antigen (PD7/26-2B11), restricted components of the leukocyte-common antigen (UCHL1, 4KB5), granulocytes (Mac-387, Leu-M1), leukocytes (MT1, MT2, LN1, LN2), HLA-DR (LN3), and elastase (NP57), as well as polyclonal antibodies against lactoferrin, lysozyme, alpha-1-antitrypsin, and alpha-1-antichymotrypsin. Results indicate that antibodies against Mac-387, elastase, and lysozyme are most useful in the recognition of neoplastic myeloid cells. We conclude that tissues containing granulocytic tumors can be identified in paraffin-embedded tissue sections using a panel of antibodies and the APAAP procedure.