To assess the efficacy of the combination of long-acting release (LAR) octreotide and tamoxifen (TMX) for the treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). A total of 109 patients with advanced HCC were randomised to receive octreotide LAR combined with TMX (n=56) (experimental treatment group) or TMX alone (n=53; control group). The clinical, biological and tumoural parameters were recorded every 3 months until death. Primary end point was patient survival; secondary end points were the impact of therapy on tumour response, quality of life and variceal bleeding episodes. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed for assessment of specific prognostic factors. The median survival was 3 months (95% CI 1.4-4.6) for the experimental treatment group and 6 months (CI 95% 2-10) for the control group (P=0.609). There was no difference in terms of alpha-foetoprotein (alpha-FP) decrease, tumour regression, improvement of quality of life and prevention of variceal bleeding between the two groups. Variables associated with a better survival in the multivariate analysis were: presence of cirrhosis, alpha-FP level <400 ng ml(-1) and Okuda stage I. The combination of octreotide LAR and TMX does not influence survival, tumour progression or quality of life in patients with advanced HCC.