In 11 patients recurrence of colorectal cancer was suspected by a rise in serum carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) (nine cases), by a subocclusive clinical situation (one case) or by endoscopy (on an anastomosis, one case). Two-step tumour targetting was performed by a first injection of 0.1 mg kg-1 of unlabelled bispecific antibody conjugate (an anti-CEA Fab' fragment chemically coupled to an anti-diethylene triamine pentaacetate (DTPA)-indium fragment) followed 4 to 5 days later by injection of the bivalent DTPA hapten labelled with 5 to 8 mCi 111In. Planar scintigraphy, single photon emission computed tomographic (SPECT) 360 degrees acquisitions and whole-body scans were obtained 4.5 and 24 h after injection of the radiolabelled hapten. Biodistribution was determined for eight patients at 48 h. The final diagnosis was confirmed histologically in nine patients (eight by second-look surgery, one by laparotomy). Overall, results were one true negative (1-year follow-up) and 10 true positive; however, for the three large liver metastases (3 to 6 cm), only the periphery of the metastasis had high uptake compared to normal liver. For pelvic recurrences, immunoscintigraphic (IS) contrast was better for small tumours. The highest tumour uptake was found for a 1 cm diameter pelvic recurrence (7.2% i.d. kg-1). Mean tumour-to-blood ratios were 6.4. Thus, this two-step tumour targetting technique, which uses a bispecific antibody conjugate and an 111In-labelled bivalent hapten injected sequentially without chasing the excess bispecific antibody, provided satisfactory results in this preliminary clinical trial for detection of recurrent colorectal cancers.