The clonogenic assay is widely considered to be the most valid test for predicting tumor cell sensitivity to cytostatic drugs. In this study it was compared with early growth curves of human leukemic cell lines (HL-60, K562, Reh) after treatment with different types of cytostatic drugs (Adriamycin, cis-diamminedichloroplatinum(II):, 1-β-d-arabinofuranosylcytosine, and 5-fluorouracil) for 1 and 24 h. Following drug treatment two parallel cultures were started: a soft agar culture for the clonogenic assay; and a liquid suspension culture for vital cell counting by measuring esterase activity with fluorescein diacetate at different time points. The latter was recorded using flow cytometry during the following 3 days in 12-h intervals. For each drug concentration a survival factor was calculated from the growth curve between 24 and 72 h. This survival factor takes into account both the y intercept of the extrapolated growth curve and the slope of the growth curve. The dose-response curves resulting from either the survival factors or the clonogenic assay were always nearly identical. The results demonstrate that in established cell lines flow cytometric determination of vital cell increase rates provides a convenient alternative to the clonogenic assay for drug testing.