The in vivo biologic activities of the hematoporphyrin derivative (Photofrin) and the enriched, so-called 'active fraction' (Photofrin II) were determined by measuring the necrosis produced in implanted tumors in DBA/2Ha mice exposed to various total doses of light (20-100 J/cm2) after ip administration of 10 mg/kg standard doses of either Photofrin or Photofrin II. Total relative percentage increase in fluorescence in tumor tissue, as compared to fluorescence in control tissue, also was measured for both Photofrin and Photofrin II. In response to total light doses (630 nm) of 40-100 J/cm2, mice that received Photofrin had comparable amounts of tumor necrosis to those mice that received Photofrin II. At doses of 40-60 J/cm2, 80% tumor destruction resulted, and at 80-100 J/cm2, tumor destruction was 100%. However, at a total light dose of 20 J/cm2, the tumors that received Photofrin II exhibited 60-80% tumor necrosis, whereas those animals that received Photofrin had only small areas of patchy necrosis associated with signs of vascular thrombosis and hemorrhage into the surrounding perivascular stroma. A 25.2% total increase in maximal tissue fluorescence over that in controls was observed for animals that received Photofrin II, as compared to 13.9% for those animals that received Photofrin. It is concluded that the greater demonstrable efficacy of treatment with Photofrin II, as compared to treatment with Photofrin, is due to enrichment of those nonpolar hydrophobic components of the hematoporphyrin derivative mixture that are thought to be primarily responsible for the in vivo biologic activities.