The pharmacokinetics and dosimetry of (86)Y-DOTA(0)- d-Phe(1)-Tyr(3)-octreotide ((86)Y-SMT487) were evaluated in a phase I positron emission tomography (PET) study of 24 patients with somatostatin receptor-positive neuroendocrine tumours. The effect of amino acid (AA) co-infusion on renal and tumour uptake was assessed in a cross-over randomised setting. Five regimens were tested: no infusion, 4-h infusion of 120 g mixed AA (26.4 g l-lysine + l-arginine), 4 h l-lysine (50 g), 10 h 240 g mixed AA (52.8 g l-lysine + l-arginine) and 4 h Lys-Arg (25 g each). Comparisons were performed on an intra-patient basis. Infusions of AA started 0.5 h prior to injection of (86)Y-SMT487 and PET scans were obtained at 4, 24 and 48 h p.i. Absorbed doses to tissues were computed using the MIRD3 method. (86)Y-SMT487 displayed rapid plasma clearance and exclusive renal excretion; uptake was noted in kidneys, tumours, spleen and, to a lesser extent, liver. The 4-h mixed AA co-infusion significantly ( P<0.05) reduced (86)Y-SMT487 renal uptake by a mean of 21%. This protective effect was significant on the dosimetry data (3.3+/-1.3 vs 4.4+/-1.0 mGy/MBq; P<0.05) and was further enhanced upon prolonging the infusion to 10 h (2.1+/-0.4 vs 1.7+/-0.2 mGy/MBq; P<0.05). Infusion of Lys-Arg but not of l-lysine was more effective in reducing renal uptake than mixed AA. Infusion of AA did not result in reduced tumour uptake. The amount of (90)Y-SMT487 (maximum allowed dose: MAD) that would result in a 23-Gy cut-off dose to kidneys was calculated for each study: MAD was higher with mixed AA co-infusion by a mean of 46% (10-114%, P<0.05 vs no infusion). In comparison with 4 h mixed AA, the MAD was higher by a mean of 23% (9-37%; P<0.05) with prolonged infusion and by a mean of 16% (2-28%; P<0.05) with Lys-Arg. We conclude that infusion of large amounts of AA reduces renal exposure during peptide-based radiotherapy and allows higher absorbed doses to tumours. The prolongation of the infusion from 4 to 10 h further enhances the protective effect on the kidneys.