The presence of somatostatin receptors on human renal cell carcinomas in surgically removed kidneys has been demonstrated by autoradiography. The aim of this study was to detect the in vivo presence of somatostatin receptors in primary renal tumours and their possible metastases before surgery, using 111In-pentreotide scintigraphy. 201T1 was used as a sensitive tumour-seeking agent with blood flow-dependent uptake. Fifteen patients were imaged before surgical removal of the renal tumour. Thirteen tumours were malignant. The large tumours (more than 4 cm in diameter) did not accumulate 111In-pentreotide or 201T1. In contrast, the single small tumour accumulated both tracers. A scalp skin metastasis was demonstrated in one patient by 201T1 and 111In-pentreotide uptake. In one case, known lung metastases were visualized with both 201T1 and 111In-pentreotide, but the lung metastases of another three patients as well as one case of epidural metastasis were not identified. In one patient with a photopaenic lesion, positive labelling of the surgically removed tumour was demonstrated by in vitro autoradiography. Somatostatin receptor scintigraphy with 111In-pentreotide appears to have little value for the detection of metastases in patients with renal cell carcinoma, as some metastases (especially those of the lungs) were missed. The absence of 111In-pentreotide uptake by large primary tumours is an interesting finding, suggesting inaccessibility of these very large tumours to drugs.