Topotecan (Hycamtin) is a water soluble semisynthetic analogue of the alkaloid camptothecin which has antitumour activity in preclinical models in vitro and in vivo. A range of Phase I studies has been performed and a daily x 5 iv. schedule, which showed most promising evidence of activity, was selected for extensive clinical evaluation. To date, topotecan has been shown to be active in a number of malignancies, including metastatic ovarian cancer, recurrent small cell lung cancer (SCLC), non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), breast cancer, colorectal cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome. In ovarian cancer, response rates of around 15% were identified in patients who had failed standard chemotherapy, and in a randomised, comparative study with paclitaxel response rates of 20% (topotecan) and 13% (paclitaxel) were observed. In addition, overall time to progression was impressive at 23 weeks (topotecan) compared with 14 weeks (paclitaxel). In recurrent SCLC, topotecan has shown good activity in sensitive patients with a response rate of 39%, although the response rate in refractory patients was considerably lower (7%). Median survival of all patients was 5.4 months, acceptable for this difficult clinical scenario. Topotecan is well-tolerated in the majority of patients and subjective toxicities are uncommon. The principal side-effect is myelosuppression, mainly neutropenia. Serious clinical sequelae are relatively uncommon and non-cumulative. Nonhaematological toxicities are generally mild and not dose-limiting. In clinical use, topotecan has exhibited activity in multiple tumour types, with a side-effect profile that is predictable and manageable. The drug is under evaluation in other tumour types and in combination chemotherapy regimens.