The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and toxicity of a concurrent chemoradiotherapy using docetaxel, cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) (TPF) in patients with locally advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN). In total, 19 patients with previously untreated stage III-IV SCCHN were entered onto this trial. Patients received two cycles of chemotherapy. Cycles were repeated every 4 weeks. The starting doses (dose level 1) were docetaxel 60 mg m(-2), cisplatin 70 mg m(-2), and 5-day continuous infusion of 5-FU 600 mg m(-2) day(-1). Radiation was targeted to begin on the first day of chemotherapy, day 1. The total radiation dose to the primary tumour site and neck lymph nodes was between 63.0 and 74.0 Gy. At least three patients were examined at each dose level before advancing to the next level. The maximum-tolerated dose (MTD) of this regimen was docetaxel 60 mg m(-2), cisplatin 60 mg m(-2) and 5-FU 600 mg m(-2) day(-1). The main toxicities were mucositis (grade 3 and 4, 79%), leukocytopenia (grade 3 and 4, 53%), neutropenia (grade 3 and 4, 42%), anaemia (grade 3, 16%), liver dysfunction (grade 3, 11%) and renal dysfunction (grade 2, 11%). The overall response rate was 100%, including 84% complete responses (CRs). This concurrent chemoradiotherapy with TPF was safe and well tolerated. The high CR rate justifies further evaluation of this chemoradiotherapy modality in advanced SCCHN patients.