The fluorometric microculture cytotoxicity assay (FMCA), a short-term in vitro assay based on the concept of total tumor cell kill, was used for testing the cytotoxic drug sensitivity of tumor cells from patients with ovarian carcinoma. A total of 125 fresh specimens was obtained, 98 (78%) of which were analyzed successfully. Data from 45 patients were available for clinical correlations. The FMCA appeared to yield clinically relevant cytotoxic drug sensitivity data for ovarian carcinoma as indicated by a comparison with tumor samples obtained from patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or kidney carcinoma. Considering the most active single agent in vitro actually given in vivo, and using the median drug activity among all ovarian carcinoma samples as a cut-off, the sensitivity of the assay and its specificity were 75 and 52%, respectively. Cross-resistance in vitro was frequently observed between standard drugs but not between standard drugs and Taxol. Ten percent of the specimens showed an extreme resistance for at least 4 of 6 of the drugs investigated.