The expression of Ley blood group antigen in epithelial ovarian cancer tissues and cell lines has been studied using a Ley-specific monoclonal antibody (MAb 3S193). In ovarian cancer specimens, Ley was expressed in 75% of the 140 tumor specimens examined, with strong or moderate expression being observed in 56% of the samples. Seven of the 11 ovarian cancer cell lines studied were Ley-positive. Using immunochemical approaches, Ley epitopes were found to be expressed on 4 types of carrier molecules: CA125 ovarian cancer antigen, MUC-1 mucins, lower m.w. glycoproteins and glycolipids. In cell lines, Ley was more commonly expressed on MUC-1 mucin than on CA125, whereas in tumor specimens Ley was commonly found on both CA125 and MUC-1. The biochemical nature of the smaller Ley glycoproteins was not determined, but it was shown that they were not CEA and LAMP-1, known Ley carriers in some other tumor types. Glycolipids carrying Ley epitopes were detected in both ovarian cancer cell lines and tumor specimens. The presence of Ley epitopes on a number of different molecular carriers, including 2 major ovarian cancer antigens (CA125 and MUC-1), explains the high incidence of Ley in ovarian cancer. The high expression of Ley in ovarian cancer and the availability of specific murine and humanized MAbs make Ley an attractive candidate target for clinical studies.