Retrospective analysis has shown that activating mutations in exons 18-21 of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene are a predictor of response to gefitinib. We conducted a phase II trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of gefitinib as first-line therapy for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with EGFR mutations. Patients with stage IIIB or IV chemotherapy-naïve NSCLC with EGFR mutation were treated with 250 mg gefitinib daily. For mutational analysis, DNA was extracted from paraffin-embedded tissues and EGFR mutations were analysed by direct sequence of PCR products. Twenty (24%) of the 82 patients analysed had EGFR mutations (deletions in or near E746-A750, n=16; L858R, n=4). Sixteen patients were enrolled and treated with gefitinib. Twelve patients had objective response and response rate was 75% (95% CI, 48-93%). After a median follow-up of 12.7 months (range, 3.1-16.8 months), 10 patients demonstrated disease progression, with median progression-free survival of 8.9 months (95% CI, 6.7-11.1 months). The median overall survival time has not yet been reached. Most of the toxicities were mild. This study showed that gefitinib is very active and well tolerated as first-line therapy for advanced NSCLC with EGFR mutations.