We have used in vivo and in vitro procedures to select a subpopulation of cells from the human ovarian carcinoma cell line, NIH:OVCAR-3, with the capacity to grow i.p. in female nude athymic mice. After i.p. injection of these cells, animals develop metastatic spread similar to that of clinical ovarian cancer. Disease progression is characterized by the development of massive ascites, extensive invasive i.p. tumors, and pulmonary metastases. The malignant ascites cells are transplantable, manifest cytoplasmic androgen and estrogen receptors, and express the ovarian cancer associated antigen CA125 (116,000 units/ml of ascites supernatant). The cells also have the same chromosome markers which were present in the original cell line, NIH:OVCAR-3. Survival following i.p. passage of ascites is dependent on tumor cell inoculum ranging from a median survival of 39 days with 40 million cells to 84 days for 11.5 million transplanted cells. The characteristics of this unique in vivo model make it well suited for the evaluation of new drugs and novel experimental therapies in ovarian cancer. In addition, this in vivo model, together with ovarian cancer cell lines, may prove particularly useful for the study of pharmacological ways to specifically increase the cytotoxicity of anticancer agents in tumor cells while not increasing toxicity in normal tissues. The presence of hormone receptors should facilitate the experimental evaluation of hormonal therapy in ovarian cancer.