The effect of recombinant human granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) on hematologic parameters was evaluated in a phase I clinical study in 18 patients with advanced malignancy. G-CSF was administered once daily as a 30-minute infusion for 14 days; three patients each were treated at increasing dose levels of 1, 3, 10, 30, and 60 micrograms kg-1 day-1. A transient decrease in neutrophil and monocyte counts was observed immediately after the G-CSF infusion, followed by a dose-dependent increase of up to 15-fold. G-CSF-induced neutrophils exhibited an increased O2- radical production, and serum levels of enzymes related to granulocyte turnover, including lysozyme and elastase, were markedly elevated during therapy. A dose-dependent depression of platelet counts occurred in the second third of the treatment course, followed by a spontaneous recovery despite continuing therapy. G-CSF was well-tolerated; minor to moderate bone pain was the most common side effect. The primary course of the malignant diseases studied was not significantly altered. G-CSF appears to be an appropriate means to selectively increase the number of functionally competent polymorphonuclear phagocytes.