The aim of this study was to investigate the benefit of weekly epirubicin in the treatment of metastatic hormone-resistant prostate cancer. One hundred and forty-eight patients with metastatic hormone-resistant prostate cancer received weekly 30-min intravenous infusions of epirubicin 30 mg m(2) of body surface area. The primary end-point was palliative response, defined as a reduction in pain intensity and an improvement in performance status. The secondary end-points were the duration of the palliative response, quality of life and survival. Fifty-seven (44%) of the 131 evaluable patients met the primary criterion of palliative response after six treatment cycles and 73 (56%) after 12 cycles; the median duration of the response was 9 months (range 1-11). The median global quality of life improved in 52% of the patients after six cycles and in 68% after 12 cycles. The 12- and 18-month survival rates were respectively 56 and 31%, with a median survival of 13+ months (range 1-36). The treatment was well tolerated: grade 3 neutropenia was observed in 8% of the patients, grade 3 anaemia in 7%, and grade 3 thrombocytopenia in 3%. None of the patients developed grade 4 toxicity or congestive heart failure. Weekly epirubicin chemotherapy can lead to a rapid and lasting palliative result in patients with metastatic HRPC, and have a positive effect on the quality of life and survival.