The variability in toxicity or efficacy of cancer chronotherapy among patients may be due to differences in circadian rhythm. Adequate assessment of circadian rhythm often requires repeated blood sampling over at least a 24-hr period; this cannot be a routine procedure. We attempted to assess the reliability of a 2-timepoint estimate of the 24-hr rhythm of serum cortisol in 19 healthy subjects, 19 women with ovarian cancer and 18 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. The difference between daily maximum and minimum values (MAX-MIN) was compared with that observed between values at 08.00 and at 16.00 (H8-H16). As significant correlations were found between both variables in all groups, we conclude that the magnitude of circadian changes in serum cortisol may be estimated from blood samples collected at 08.00 and at 16.00. The clinical relevance and the prognostic value of this method of assessment are currently under evaluation in a larger-scale clinical trial.