The concentrations of homovanillic acid (HVA), hydroxymethoxyphenylethyleneglycol (HMPG), and vanillylmandelic acid (VMA) were determined in lumbar cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens. The study population consisted of the following groups: control subjects with malignancies of nonneuroectodermal origin (mostly leukemia in remission), neuroblastoma (extracranial and intracranial or cranial metastases), brain tumors (neuroectodermal and glial), and retinoblastoma. A significant increase in the CSF concentration of HVA was observed in patients with brain tumors (neuroectodermal), neuroblastoma (intracranial or cranial metastases), and retinoblastoma when compared with age-matched controls. In contrast, HMPG and VMA concentrations did not differ from controls except in patients with neuroblastoma (intracranial or cranial metastases) and brain tumors (neuroectodermal) who had significant elevations in HMPG and VMA, respectively. An inverse correlation was noted between the CSF concentration of HVA and clinical response to therapy. Nonresponding patients exhibited increases in HVA when compared with pretreatment values. These data suggest that the quantitative determination of catecholamine metabolites in lumbar CSF is an effective method for diagnosing intracranial tumors of neuroectodermal origin and assessing their response to therapy.