Mitoxantrone is a dihydroxyanthracenedione derivative which as intravenous mono- and combination therapy has demonstrated therapeutic efficacy similar to that of standard induction and salvage treatment regimens in advanced breast cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, acute nonlymphoblastic leukaemia and chronic myelogenous leukaemia in blast crisis; it appears to be an effective alternative to the anthracycline component of standard treatment regimens in these indications. Mitoxantrone is also effective as a component of predominantly palliative treatment regimens for hepatic and advanced ovarian carcinoma. Limited studies suggest useful therapeutic activity in multiple myeloma and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Regional therapy of malignant effusions, hepatic and ovarian carcinomas has also been very effective, with a reduction in systemic adverse effects. Mitoxantrone inhibits DNA synthesis by intercalating DNA, inducing DNA strand breaks, and causing DNA aggregation and compaction, and delays cell cycle progression, particularly in late S phase. In vitro antitumour activity is concentration- and exposure time-proportional, and synergy with other antineoplastic drugs has been demonstrated in murine tumour models. Leucopenia may be dose-limiting in patients with solid tumours, whereas stomatitis may be dose-limiting in patients with leukaemia. Other adverse effects are usually of mild or moderate severity although cardiac effects, particularly congestive heart failure, may be of concern, especially in patients with a history of anthracycline therapy, mediastinal irradiation or cardiovascular disease. Mitoxantrone displays an improved tolerability profile compared with doxorubicin and other anthracyclines, although myelosuppression may occur more frequently. Thus, mitoxantrone is an effective and better tolerated alternative to the anthracyclines in most haematological malignancies, in breast cancer and in advanced hepatic or ovarian carcinoma. Further studies may consolidate its role in the treatment of these and other malignancies.