Although high-dose chemotherapy and autologous bone marrow transplantation (ABMT) are increasingly being used for the treatment of relapsed and resistant Hodgkin's disease, there have been few large, single-center studies reported with adequate follow-up to allow full evaluation of this therapeutic modality. We present 155 poor-risk Hodgkin's disease patients who received high-dose BEAM (BCNU, etoposide, cytosine arabinoside, and melphalan) chemotherapy and ABMT who have been studied over a period of 8 years. All patients had either not attained a remission on mechlorethamine, vincristine, procarbazine, prednisone-type therapy and had poor prognostic features at presentation, not attained a complete remission or relapsed within 1 year of an initial alternating regimen, or not attained remission with two or more lines of treatment. At the time of ABMT the relapse status of the patients was as follows: 46 patients were primarily refractory to induction therapy, 7 were good partial responders, 52 were in first relapse, 37 in second relapse, and 13 in third relapse. Seventy-eight patients had chemoresistant disease, 33 had chemosensitive disease at the time of ABMT, and 44 were untested for chemosensitivity at latest relapse. The procedure related mortality in the first 90 days post-ABMT of 10% overall. At 3 months 43 patients (28%) were assessed as complete responders, 72 patients had a partial response (46%), and 24 patients (16%) had no response or progression of disease. However, by 6 months, 53 (24%) patients were assessed as complete responders and 51 (33%) patients had nonprogressive disease. Forty-five patients had received radiotherapy post-ABMT to residual masses (41 patients) or to previous sites of bulk disease (4 patients). The actuarialoverall and progression-free survival at 5 years was 55% and 50%, respectively. On multivariate analysis patients with bulk (masses >10 cm), heavily pretreated patients (those receiving three or more lines of treatment) and females had a significantly poorer prognosis. Relapse status was also significant for progression-free survival in that patients in second (60%) and third relapse (70%) had a better prognosis than those in first relapse (44%) or with primary refractory disease (33%). Response to prior chemotherapy did not predict for progression-free survival. These results enable comparisons to be made between high-dose chemotherapy with ABMT and conventional dose salvage therapy. Furthermore, although the results as a whole are highly encouraging, certain groups carry an unfavorable prognosis.