Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of the gynaecological cancers, affecting approximately 1 in 75 women in the developed world. In most cases (>75%), the disease is disseminated beyond the ovary at diagnosis. For patients with stage III-IV disease, many clinicians agree that standard treatment should comprise six cycles of paclitaxel-carboplatin. Randomised trials over the past 10 years have indicated the superiority of paclitaxel-based treatment and that carboplatin is equivalent to cisplatin, but better tolerated. A recent trial has suggested that docetaxel may be a better option than paclitaxel, with reduced neurotoxicity and comparable efficacy. Overall treatment results remain unsatisfactory, since the median survival for these patients is 2-3 years. Future progress may be made by addressing the following issues: Would sequential regimes be more effective? Intriguing results from two large randomised trials (ICON-3 and GOG-132) indicate that single agent platinum might well be incorporated into such regimes. Additionally, a range of other agents could be tested as part of first-line regimes, having demonstrated activity in relapsed patients; these include topotecan, gemcitabine and liposomal doxorubicin. Newer agents, such as cell signalling inhibitors have shown potential as single agents, but may be particularly effective in combination with current drugs. Real progress can be expected when a better understanding is achieved of the mechanisms underlying clinical drug resistance in ovarian cancer, and a close laboratory-clinical interaction is crucial.