We report the final results of a prospectively randomized study that compared the combination of epirubicin, cisplatin and protracted venous infusion fluorouracil (5-FU) (ECF regimen) with the standard combination of 5-FU, doxorubicin and methotrexate (FAMTX) in previously untreated patients with advanced oesophagogastric cancer. Between 1992 and 1995, 274 patients with adenocarcinoma or undifferentiated carcinoma were randomized from eight oncology centres in the UK and analysed for response and survival. The overall response rate was 46% (95% confidence interval (CI), 37-55%) with ECF, and 21% (95% CI, 13-28%) with FAMTX (P = 0.00003). The median survival was 8.7 months with ECF and 6.1 months with FAMTX (P = 0.0005). The 2-year survival rates were 14% (95% CI, 8-20%) for the ECF arm, and 5% (95% CI, 2-10%) for the FAMTX arm (P = 0.03). Histologically complete surgical resection following chemotherapy was achieved in ten patients in the ECF arm (three pathological complete responses to chemotherapy) and three patients in the FAMTX arm (no pathological complete responses). The ECF regimen resulted in a response and survival advantage compared with FAMTX chemotherapy. The probability of long-term survival following surgical resection of residual disease is increased by this treatment. The high response rates seen with ECF support its use in the neoadjuvant setting.