Exposure of core carbohydrate structures such as NeuAc alpha2-6GalNAc-Ser/Thr (sialosyl-Tn) in mucus glycoproteins is often associated with malignant transformation in a number of different tissues. Reagents that specifically identify such structures would be useful in the diagnosis of cancer. Monoclonal antibody JT10e has been produced against mucins from xenografts of LS174T colon cancer cells but also reacts with mucins of pancreatic cancer xenografts. The following data suggest that JT10e reacts with sialosyl-Tn: (I) reactivity with bovine and ovine submaxillary mucins; (2) reactivity sensitive to neuraminidase or mild acid; (3) inhibition of reactivity by NeuAc and NeuAc alpha2-6 lactose; and (4) lack of reactivity with other glycoproteins with related carbohydrate structures but no sialosyl-Tn. JT10e is distinguishable from 2 other antibodies which react with sialosyl-Tn, B72.3 and TKH2 because JT10e: (a) did not react with normal gastric tissue while B72.3 and TKH2 did; (b) was only partially inhibited by TKH2 and not at all by B72.3; (c) did not react with Tn antigen while B72.3 did; and (d) bound more strongly to pancreatic cancer mucins than did either B72.3 or TKH2. JT10e reacted with a high percentage of malignant colonic, pancreatic, gastric and mammary tissues but not with the corresponding normal tissues. A high percentage of patients with colonic, pancreatic, gastric, mammary and lung cancers had elevated blood levels of JT10e antigen. A number of colonic cancer patients had elevated JT10e antigen levels without corresponding elevations in CA19-9 levels. These results suggest that JT10e antibody could be used in conjunction with other mucin markers to improve the identification of malignancy in colon, and to study the structure of oligosaccharides in cancer mucins.