Nineteen consecutive patients with metastatic or recurrent nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) receiving combination chemotherapy were monitored for EBV DNA in their serum. EBV DNA (EBER-1) concentration in serum was measured before, during, and after chemotherapy. Thirteen patients had additional multiple prechemotherapy readings. There was a significant lead time from first detection of serum EBER-1 to clinical recurrence in 62% of patients by a mean of 17.4 weeks (range: 8-74.5 weeks; mean = 28.2 weeks if confined to the 8 patients with significant lead time). The median EBER-1 concentration was significantly higher in those with distant metastasis as compared to those with loco-regional recurrence only (17,468 vs. 684 pg/mL serum; p = 0.046, Mann-Whitney U test). Among the 13 patients who responded to chemotherapy, 4 exhibited clinical complete remission (CR) who were only found in the group with EBER-1 DNA drop to background level, while the magnitude of EBER-1 drop did not discriminate partial remission (PR) and stable disease (SD) patients clearly. Subsequent profile of EBER-1 DNA showed concordance with clinical course of either continuous remission or later progression. EBER-1 DNA in serum can become a useful adjunctive surrogate marker to monitor chemotherapeutic response in NPC patients with distant metastasis or advanced local recurrence.