The possibility of reducing tumour cell contamination by cytotoxic drug courses prior to peripheral blood progenitor cell (PBPC) collection was evaluated in two consecutives groups of multiple myeloma (MM) patient candidates for autograft. All patients were at disease onset and received two VAD (vincristine, doxorubicin and dexamethasone) courses as initial debulking. In the first group (44 patients), mobilization and harvest were performed ‘upfront’, after a single cyclophosphamide (CY) administration of 4 g/m2; in the second group (17 patients), PBPC were collected at the end of a high-dose sequential chemotherapy programme, including: CY 5 g/m2, etoposide (VP16) 2 g/m2, a chemotherapy-free interval with three courses of high-dose dexamethasone, a final mobilizing CY at 7 g/m2. G-CSF was given following each high-dose cytotoxic drug. Cytofluorimetric analysis was performed to quantify progenitors (CD34+ cells) and plasma cells, identified by the high CD38 expression and/or CD38 and CD138 coexpression. Large amounts of PBPC were collected in either group (median harvested CD34+/kg: 15.8 × 106 and 13.4 × 106, respectively; P = 0.9). Circulating plasma cells were significantly higher in patients mobilized ‘upfront’ compared to those who received the high-dose sequence (median peak values of CD38bright/μl: 39 and 10, respectively; P = 0.02); a similar difference was observed in the amount of con-taminating plasma cells in the harvest products (median CD38bright/kg: 7.4 × 106 and 1.3 × 106, respectively; P = 0.02). The results demonstrate that an in vivo purging approach is feasible in myeloma patients through repeated high-dose chemotherapy courses; this may provide less-contaminated material suitable for further in vitro purging procedures.