Twenty-seven patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) have undergone peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) harvesting for autologous transplantation (Tx). A molecular marker was found at presentation in 23/27 patients. Immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) or T cell receptor beta (TCR beta) rearrangements were detected by Southern blotting or the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 13 patients; PCR detected the bcl-2/JH fusion in 10 patients. Fifteen autologous PBSC transplants have been performed in 11 patients. In 5/11 patients, the marker was present in at least one PBSC collection (in four patients, every PBSC collection was positive). Survival data are available for nine patients (two early deaths); three patients relapsed and died (221 - 930 d), one is alive and in relapse (354 + d) and five are alive and in complete remission (330 - 1290 + d). These findings suggest that tumour cell contamination of PBSC harvests is not uncommon. Whether these cells are clonogenic and contribute to disease relapse remains to be elucidated. The presence of residual disease at the time of transplantation and the reappearance (or persistence) of marker positive cells post-transplantation both appear to be poor prognostic factors for disease-free survival.