We compared para-, meta- and ortho-isomers of meso-tetra(hydroxyphenyl)porphyrin (p-, m- and o-THPP) and the potassium salt of the para compound (K-p-THPP) with haematoporphyrin derivative (HpD) and Photofrin II in their ability to sensitise tumours, skin and brain to light. HpD and Photofrin II induced modest tumour photosensitisation at the cost of substantial skin and brain sensitisation. At doses low enough to keep sensitisation of these normal tissues within acceptable limits, tumour sensitisation was sufficient to give necrosis only approximately 2 mm deep after exposure to 10 J cm-2 light. In contrast, doses of p-THPP, K-p-THPP and m-THPP that produced skin and brain sensitivity within acceptable limits sensitised tumours enough to give 4-9 mm necrosis after 10 J cm-2 light. m-THPP was, on a molar basis, about 25-30 times as potent as HpD and Photofrin II in sensitising tumours. o-THPP was also a potent tumour photosensitiser, but induced a prohibitive degree of skin photosensitivity even at low doses. It is unlikely that these differences in relative selectivity are due to differences in such photophysical parameters as optimum activating wavelength (which would affect tissue penetration by light), or light absorption, and physicochemical factors that determine tissue localisation may be involved. The high tumour sensitising potency and favourable tissue selectivity of m-THPP, p-THPP and K-p-THPP make them promising candidates for clinical tumour phototherapy.