Eleven patients with B lymphocytic malignancy were treated with mouse monoclonal anti-idiotype antibodies. All but one of the patients in this study had received extensive prior treatment with conventional lymphoma therapy. All antibodies were prepared against, and uniquely reactive with, the patient's own tumor. Ten patients were treated with a single antibody, but one patient received three antibodies concurrently. The treatment protocol initially used an escalating dose schedule that was intended to evaluate toxicity, pharmacokinetics and, eventually, to achieve appreciable levels of free mouse antibody in the circulation. The last two patients received substantial initial doses. Tumor sampling was performed before and during therapy to evaluate tissue penetration by antibody. None of the patients had serum paraproteins by routine clinical testing, but six had idiotype protein detectable by a sensitive immunoassay at levels greater than 1 microgram/mL, two of which were greater than 200 micrograms/mL. Plasmapheresis was capable of reducing these levels temporarily. However, the presence of serum idiotype increased the requirement for mouse antibody to achieve tumor penetration. Another obstacle to treatment was immune response to mouse Ig, which occurred in five of the 11 patients. Once an immune response had begun, further infusions of antibody were not capable of reaching the tumor or inducing tumor regression and were associated with toxicity. Our initial patient remains in an unmaintained complete remission 42 months after receiving antibody. Five of ten additional patients have had objective remissions that were also clinically significant. However, these remissions were not complete and were of relatively short duration. This therapy shows promise as an alternative modality for the treatment of B cell malignancy. Further study will be needed to determine the mechanisms of the antitumor effect and to improve the clinical results.