A prospective comparative trial of allogeneic versus autologous bone marrow transplant (BMT) was conducted. Sixty-six consecutive patients (median age, 41; range, 15 to 60; female:male ratio = 21:45) entered this clinical trial. Priority for allogeneic BMT was given to patients who were 55 or younger and had a major histocompatibility complex- matched or 1-antigen-disparate sibling donor. Autologous BMT was offered to all other patients whose age was 60 or younger. Patients who had no sibling donor and who had BM involvement at the time of evaluation were not eligible. Thirty-one patients received an allograft, and 35 patients received an autograft. Thirteen patients received a BM graft purged with 4-hydroperoxycyclophosphamide because of previous BM involvement. Patients who had previous radiation to the thoracic and/or abdominal areas of more than 20 Gy received a preparative regimen consisting of cyclophosphamide (1,800 mg/m2/d for 4 days), VP-16 (200 mg/m2 every 12 hours for 8 doses), and 1,3-bis(2- chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (600 mg/m2 as 1 dose). Other patients received cyclophosphamide 1,800 mg/m2/d for 4 days followed by total body irradiation of 12 Gy administered as a single daily fraction over 4 days. With a median follow-up of 14 months, the progression-free survival (PFS) for autograft and allograft recipients was 24% +/- 8% (+/- SE) and 47% +/- 9%, respectively, (P = .21). However, the probability of disease progression was significantly higher in the autologous group (69% +/- 9%) than in the allogeneic group (20% +/- 10%; P = .001). When other confounding prognostic factors were adjusted in the multivariate analysis, chemosensitive disease and allograft were found to have a significant favorable influence on probability of disease progression (P = .03 and .003), but only chemosensitive disease had a significant influence on the PFS (P < .002). Our results suggest the existence of graft-versus-lymphoma effect and also support the rationale of using immunotherapy after autologous BMT. Allogeneic BMT should be preferable to autologous BMT in younger patients with lymphoma.