Cell lines resistant to five antitumor alkylating agents (CDDP, PAM, 4-HC, HN2, and BCNU) were developed from five parental human tumor lines representative of solid tumors with a range of sensitivities to antitumor alkylating agents. The parental cell lines were SCC-25 squamous carcinoma of the head and neck, MCF-7 breast carcinoma, SW2 small-cell lung cancer, SL6 non-small-cell lung carcinoma, and G3361 melanoma. Survival curves using colony formation as the endpoint were generated for each of the 25 cell lines to each of the five alkylating agents. Comparison of the drug concentrations that reduced the survival of the alkylating agent-resistant cell lines by 90% (IC90 values) with the IC90 values obtained for the corresponding parental cell lines was used as a measure of the resistance/sensitivity of the alkylating agent-resistant lines to each drug tested. Although cross-resistance among the alkylating agents was generally uncommon, several patterns of response emerged. Cross-resistance occurred in 27 of the 105 determinations and occurred most frequently in the cell lines in which resistance was developed to PAM (57%) or BCNU (38%). Cross-resistance to HN2 occurred most frequently. Collateral sensitivity was equally as common, occurring in 25 of the 105 determinations. Collateral sensitivity occurred most frequently in the cell lines made resistant to 4-HC. The 4-HC-resistant cell lines were most frequently collaterally sensitive to PAM and to BCNU. Cross-resistance developed most frequently in the MCF-7 breast carcinoma and SCC-25 squamous-cell carcinoma cell lines, whereas collateral sensitivity developed most frequently in the SW2 small-cell lung cancer line and the G3361 melanoma cell line and least frequently in the MCF-7 breast carcinoma cell line and the SL6 non-small-cell lung cancer cell line. The implication of these findings for the development of strategies for clinical treatment are discussed.