A RAPID METHOD for detecting the presence of transferrin receptors (TR) on human glioblastoma-derived cell lines is presented. The development of new treatment modalities, such as immunotoxins for central nervous system cancer, requires the identification of appropriate surface antigens on tumor cells. Seven established human glioblastoma-derived cell lines were assayed for the presence of TR with antibody-coated magnetic microspheres (immunobeads). The immunobeads bound to glioblastoma cells in the presence of human anti-TR monoclonal antibodies to a significantly greater degree than to control cell lines (P < 0.0001). The expression of TR was confirmed by standard immunocytochemical techniques. A 9L rat gliosarcoma cell line was used as a nonhuman control and did not demonstrate TR expression by either the immunobead assay or immunocytochemistry. This assay represents a simple, sensitive way to detect TR expression on malignant cells, which may be useful for the identification of other cell surface antigens that can be exploited by targeted therapies.