Activated platelets and stimulated endothelial cells express P-selectin, an integral membrane protein receptor that binds monocytes and neutrophils. P-selectin mediates adhesion to glycoproteins with carbohydrate structures containing sialyl-Lewis X. Since many carcinoma cells also express these carbohydrate structures and are known to interact with platelets, we asked whether P-selectin may mediate this interaction. Both small cell lung cancer and neuroblastoma cell lines bound to activated platelets, and this interaction was blocked with inhibitory anti-P-selectin antibodies and by pretreatment of these cancer cells with neuraminidase or trypsin. Platelet binding to the small cell lung cancer cells was not inhibited with anti-GP IIb-IIIa antibody or Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser peptide. Pretreatment of the neuroblastoma cells with inhibitors of N-linked carbohydrate biosynthesis had little effect on binding to P-selectin, indicating that relevant carbohydrate ligand(s) may be O-linked. In addition, lipospheres containing P-selectin specifically bound to cryostat sections derived from a small cell lung tumor and two neuroblastoma tumors, but not to sections of normal lung. These observations demonstrate that P-selectin mediates binding of platelets to small cell lung cancer and to neuroblastoma and suggest a possible role for this lectin in metastasis.