The goal of this study was to compare growth characteristics of cells shed from a tumour with the native tumour cells. The human colon adenocarcinoma LS174T and its highly metastatic subline LS LiM 6 were grown as tissue-isolated tumours in nude mice and perfused to collect shed cells. The tumours were then excised and prepared into single-cell suspensions. Clonogenicity in 0.3-0.9% agarose, apoptotic fraction, and in vivo tumorigenicity were determined for each population. In both tumour lines, shed cells were less clonogenic, more apoptotic and less tumorigenic than cells isolated directly from their native tissue. These findings suggest that shed cells have a low metastatic potential compared to native tumour cells, most likely because they represent an apoptotic population.