Phase I studies of [N-(2-hydroxypropyl)methacrylamide] (HPMA) copolymer-doxorubicin previously showed signs of activity coupled with 5-fold decreased anthracycline toxicity in chemotherapy-refractory patients. Here we report phase II studies using a similar material (FCE28068) in patients with breast (n=17), non-small cell lung (NSCLC, n=29) and colorectal (n=16) cancer. Up to 8 courses of PK1 (280 mg/m(2) doxorubicin-equivalent) were given i.v., together with 123I-labelled imaging analogue. Toxicities were tolerable, with grade 3 neutropenia more prominent in patients with breast cancer (4/17, 23.5% compared with 5/62, 8.1% overall). Of 14 evaluable patients with breast cancer 3 had partial responses (PR), all anthracycline-naïve patients. In 26 evaluable patients with NSCLC, 3 chemotherapy-naïve patients had PR. In contrast, none of the 16 evaluable patients with colorectal cancer responded. Imaging of 16 patients (5 with breast cancer, 6 NSCLC, 5 colorectal cancer) showed obvious tumour accumulation in 2 metastatic breast cancers, although unfortunately no images were obtained from patients who responded. These results show 6/62 PR with limited side effects, supporting the concept that polymer-bound therapeutics can have modified and improved anticancer activities and suggesting the approach should be explored further for breast cancer and NSCLC.