Insulin-like growth factor-binding proteins (IGFBPs) are important modulators of IGF action. In 50 children suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), we studied the serum levels of IGFBP-1,-2 and-3. The mean standard deviation score (SDS) values were estimated to be 0.7, 3.1 and -1.7 for the IGFBP-1,-2 and-3, respectively, compared with the normal range defined by a SDS from -2 to +2. IGFBP-1 and-3 were normal, but for IGFBP-2 we found a significantly elevated serum level compared with control groups (P < 0.05). However, during chemotherapy this increased serum IGFBP-2 normalized. In addition, we found a correlation between higher serum levels and the detection rate of the IGFBP-2 transcript in corresponding cells. In patients with ALL, the detection rates of IGFBP-2 mRNA were estimated to be 72% and 35% at the time of diagnosis and at day 33 of chemotherapy respectively; in the control groups (healthy children and children at their initial presentation of diabetes mellitus), the values were 28% and 33% respectively. Based on the correlation between IGFBP-2 serum levels and the corresponding gene expression as well as the normalization of IGFBP-2 levels during chemotherapy, we concluded that the increased serum level mainly originated from the tumour clone itself. Furthermore, possible functional consequences of elevated IGFBP-2 were outlined.