DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) methylate DNA, promoting local chromatin condensation and consequent repression of gene expression. The purpose of this two-stage phase II trial was to assess the antitumor activity of MG98, a second generation antisense oligodeoxynucleotide inhibitor of human DNMT 1, in patients with metastatic renal carcinoma (MRC). Untreated adult patients with measurable MRC were treated with MG98 at a dose of 360 mg/m2 via 2-h iv infusion twice weekly for three consecutive weeks out of four. The primary endpoint was objective response or absence of progression for at least eight weeks. Pharmacokinetics and DNMT1 mRNA levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were also analyzed at pre-specified intervals. Seventeen eligible patients received a median of two cycles of treatment (range, 1-7), and no objective responses were seen. Nine patients had progressive disease, six had stable disease, and the study was stopped after the first stage. The most common symptomatic toxicities were rigors, fatigue, fever, and nausea. Hematological toxicity was mild. Seven patients treated with prior nephrectomy had grade 3 or 4 elevations in hepatic transaminases. Significantly higher Cmax and AUC(0-->inf) values were observed in these patients. No conclusive pattern of decreased DNMT1 activity in PBMCs was detected post MG98 treatment. The lack of objective responses observed may be explained by a lack of target effect or the choice of tumor type. Transaminitis was observed in patients with prior nephrectomy and appeared to be associated with altered drug exposure in these patients.