A series of monoclonal antibodies that define B cell restricted and associated antigens was utilized in an attempt to characterize tumors of B lineage and to relate these tumors to B cell differentiative stages. Antigens that were previously shown to be B cell restricted on normal B lymphocytes were similarly expressed only on B cell malignancies. In contrast, antigens that were B cell associated were also found on tumors of other lineages. Moreover, on the basis of cell surface phenotypes, tumors of B cell origin were divided into three major subgroups, which corresponded to the level of differentiation of the malignant tumor cell: pre-B cell stage (non-T acute lymphoblastic leukemia and chronic myelocytic leukemia in lymphoid blast crisis); the mid-B cell stage (chronic lymphocytic leukemia, poorly differentiated lymphomas); and secretory B cell stage (large cell lymphomas and plasma cell tumors). A hypothetical model is derived that relates the malignant B cell to its normal cellular counterpart on the basis of cell surface expression of this panel of B cell-restricted and B cell- associated antigens.