Gemcitabine and 5-fluorouracil are the only two compounds with reproducible activity against advanced pancreatic cancer (APC). We have evaluated a novel combination of gemcitabine and 5-fluorouracil on the clinical benefit response (CBR) end point. Eleven consecutive patients with symptomatic APC were entered in a two-stage phase II trial. Gemcitabine was administered by intravenous (i.v.) bolus injection at the dose of 1,000 mg m(-2) on days 1, 8, 15 and 5-fluorouracil 500 mg m(-2) was given by continuous i.v. infusion on days 1-5. Treatment was repeated every 28 days. A CBR was achieved in 7/11 patients. The mean time to loss of CBR was 26.5 weeks (range 14-18, median 22). Toxicity was mild and no APC patient experienced WHO grade 3 toxicity. The gemcitabine/5-fluorouracil combination is well tolerated and produces a symptomatic relief in the majority of APC patients.