The treatment of chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is difficult in those unresponsive to corticosteroids and/or splenectomy. We attempted to induce durable response in 21 patients with refractory ITP by applying mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) (1.5-2.0 g/d), a novel immunosuppressive agent. Overall response rate was 62% (13 of 21), including 24% (five of 21) in complete response (CR), 29% (six of 21) in partial response (PR), and 10% (two of 21) in minor response (MR). The response rates for non-splenectomized and splenectomized ITP patients were 64% (nine of 14) and 57% (four of seven), respectively (P > 0.05). 39% (five of 13) responders relapsed as a result of dose reduction or withdraw of MMF, and 61% (eight of 13) responders maintained their effectiveness for a median of 24 wk. Sustained response was observed in three patients in whom MMF was withdrawn. MMF was well tolerated with only slight nausea and diarrhea recorded in 3 of 21 cases. No premature withdrawal was found in this study. CD3+ peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and CD19+ PBMC were significantly reduced 12 wk after MMF administration in the responders. Platelet-associated antibodies against glycoproteins GPIIb/IIIa were detected in 13 of 21 (62%) patients before MMF treatment, and antibody levels were significantly decreased in responders 12 wk after MMF administration. This suggested that MMF might correct the immunologic abnormalities underlying the destruction of circulating platelets in ITP. We conclude that MMF could be used as a second-line agent for the treatment of steroid-resistant ITP before or after splenectomy and thereby is worth of further evaluation in randomized studies.