Our objective was to determine the response to gemcitabine plus docetaxel in advanced urothelial transitional cell carcinoma in a phase II trial, and gemcitabine distribution between plasma and erythrocytes, following docetaxel administration. Patients with locally advanced or metastatic transitional cell carcinoma, following a maximum of one prior chemotherapy regimen, were given gemcitabine 800 mg/m on days 1 and 8 plus docetaxel 85 mg/m on day 8, every 21 days. Gemcitabine was measured in the plasma and erythrocytes of nine patients before and after docetaxel administration. Thirty-four patients (median 63 years; range 49-79 years), of whom seven had prior chemotherapy and 27 were chemotherapy-naive, received a median of six cycles (range 1-6). Complete and partial remissions were observed in two and 16 (including three pretreated) patients, respectively, for an overall response rate of 53%. Median response duration was 5 months (range 1-39+). Haematoxicity was manageable, despite grade 3 infections in 24% of patients, but other toxicities were mostly mild. An apparent shift of gemcitabine from plasma to erythrocytes occurred after docetaxel in five of six patients evaluable for this analysis. We conclude gemcitabine plus docetaxel is tolerable and highly active in treated and untreated patients with advanced transitional cell carcinoma.