To evaluate the overall survival of paediatric patients with pontine gliomas treated with oral trophosphamide and etoposide. Patients between 3 and 17 years of age with either typical diffuse pontine glioma on MRI or histologically proven anaplastic astrocytoma/glioblastoma multiforme located in the pons, were eligible. Treatment consisted of oral trophosphamide 100 mg x m(-2) x day(-1) combined with oral etoposide at 25 mg x m(-2) x day(-1) starting simultaneously with conventional radiation. Twenty patients were enrolled (median age 6 years, male : female=9 : 11). Surgical procedures included: no surgery: five, open biopsy: three, stereotactic biopsy: six, partial resection: three, and sub-total resection: three. Histological diagnoses included pilocytic astrocytoma: one, astrocytoma with no other specification: three, anaplastic astrocytoma: three, glioblastoma multiforme: eight, no histology: five. The most frequent side effects were haematologic and gastrointestinal. There was no toxic death. The response to combined treatment in 12 evaluable patients was: complete response: 0, partial response: three, stable disease: four, and progressive disease: five. All tumours progressed locally and all patients died. The overall median survival was 8 months. The overall survival rates at 1 and 4 years were: 0.4 and 0.05 respectively. This was not different from a control group of patients documented in the same population. Oral trophosphamide in combination with etoposide did not improve survival of pontine glioma patients. The treatment was well tolerated and should be evaluated for more chemoresponsive paediatric malignancies.