To evaluate the toxicity, pharmacological and biological properties of ATN-161, a five -amino-acid peptide derived from the synergy region of fibronectin, adult patients with advanced solid tumours were enrolled in eight sequential dose cohorts (0.1-16 mg kg(-1)), receiving ATN-161 administered as a 10-min infusion thrice weekly. Pharmacokinetic sampling of blood and urine over 7 h was performed on Day 1. Twenty-six patients received from 1 to 14 4-week cycles of treatment. The total number of cycles administered to all patients was 86, without dose-limiting toxicities. At dose levels above 0.5 mg kg(-1), mean total clearance and volume of distribution showed dose-independent pharmacokinetics (PKs). At 8.0 and 16.0 mg kg(-1), clearance of ATN-161 was reduced, suggesting saturable PKs. Dose escalation was halted at 16 mg kg(-1) when drug exposure (area under the curve) exceeded that associated with efficacy in animal models. There were no objective responses. Six patients received more than four cycles of treatment (>112 days). Three patients received 10 or more cycles (> or =280 days). ATN-161 was well tolerated at all dose levels. Approximately, 1/3 of the patients in the study manifested prolonged stable disease. These findings suggest that ATN-161 should be investigated further as an antiangiogenic and antimetastatic cancer agent alone or with chemotherapy.