High-dose therapy with autologous marrow support results in durable complete remissions in selected patients with relapsed lymphoma and leukemia who cannot be cured with conventional dose therapy. However, substantial morbidity and mortality result from the 3- to 6-week period of marrow aplasia until the reinfused marrow recovers adequate hematopoietic function. Hematopoietic growth factors, particularly used after chemotherapy, can increase the number of peripheral blood progenitor cells (PBPCs) present in systemic circulation. The reinfusion of PBPCs with marrow has recently been reported to reduce the time to recovery of adequate marrow function. This study was designed to determine whether granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF)-mobilized PBPCs alone (without marrow) would result in rapid and reliable hematopoietic reconstitution. Sixteen patients with metastatic breast cancer were treated with four cycles of doxorubicin, 5-fluorouracil, and methotrexate (AFM induction). Patients responding after the first two cycles were administered GM-CSF after the third and fourth cycles to recruit PBPCs for collection by two leukapheresis per cycle. These PBPCs were reinfused as the sole source of hematopoietic support after high doses of cyclophosphamide, thiotepa, and carboplatin. No marrow or hematopoietic cytokines were used after progenitor cell reinfusion. Granulocytes greater than or equal to 500/microL was observed on a median of day 14 (range, 8 to 57). Transfusion independence of platelets greater than or equal to 20,000/microL occurred on a median day of 12 (range, 8 to 134). However, three patients required the use of a reserve marrow for slow platelet engraftment. In retrospect, these patients were characterized by poor baseline bone marrow cellularity and poor platelet recovery after AFM induction therapy. When compared with 29 historical control patients who had received the same high-dose intensification chemotherapy using autologous marrow support, time to engraftment, antibiotic days, transfusion requirements, and lengths of hospital stay were all significantly improved for the patients receiving PBPCs. Thus, autologous PBPCs can be efficiently collected during mobilization by chemotherapy and GM-CSF and are an attractive alternative to marrow for hematopoietic support after high-dose therapy. The enhanced speed of recovery may reduce the morbidity, mortality, and cost of high-dose treatment. Furthermore, PBPC support may enhance the effectiveness of high-dose therapy by facilitating multiple courses of therapy.