A 41-year-old man presented with Cushing's syndrome and the biochemical features of ectopic ACTH production. Investigation revealed mediastinal metastases from a medullary carcinoma of the thyroid. The peripheral plasma contained grossly elevated levels of bombesin-like immunoreactivity (irBombesin) as well as calcitonin; blood sampling via a venous catheter confirmed a gradient of irBombesin, but not of ACTH, in the mediastinal vein draining the tumour. On extraction the tumour contained a bombesin-like peptide, but not vasopressin or corticotrophin releasing factor and only very low levels of ACTH; immunohistochemical studies showed positive immunostaining for bombesin and calcitonin but none for ACTH or CRF. No ACTH was released from dispersed tumour cells in vitro. However an extract of the tumour stimulated ACTH release in vitro from perifused dispersed rat anterior pituitary cells. This is the first reported case of Cushing's syndrome due to ectopic production of a bombesin-like peptide, causing excessive pituitary ACTH secretion.