OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the activity of oral Altretamine in women with epithelial ovarian carcinoma who responded (PR or CR) to first line chemotherapy but relapsed within 6 months. The protocol was later amended to include patients with relapse within 12 months. METHODS: A multicentric phase II trial. The patients had to have measurable disease. No more than one prior chemotherapy regiment was allowed. The patients were treated with 260 mg/m(2)/day of Altretamine in four divided doses for 2 weeks, repeated every 4 weeks. The response was evaluated after every two courses. RESULTS: Thirty-one eligible patients were treated with a median of 3 courses of Altretamine (range 1-12). Hematological toxicity was minimal. Gastrointestinal toxicity was common. Response evaluation was possible for 26 patients. Three patients (9.7% intent-to-treat) achieved a partial response. Eight patients had stable disease, and 15 patients had progressive disease after two treatment courses. The median time to progression was 10 weeks (range, 5-51 weeks). Medial survival was 34 weeks (range, 7-112+). CONCLUSION: Altretamine should not be chosen as standard treatment in patients with platinum-resistant recurrent ovarian cancer. However, Altretamine represents a useful alternative in patients who prefer oral treatment or when socioeconomic considerations are an important issue.