This phase II trial was initiated to assess the efficacy and safety of oral vorinostat (Zolinza, suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, SAHA) in patients with recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck cancer. Eligible patients must have recurrent and/or metastatic head and neck cancer unresponsive to or intolerant of conventional chemotherapy. Patients must have measurable disease, adequate hematologic, hepatic, and renal function, and be able to swallow capsules. Four or more weeks must have elapsed since prior chemotherapy, radiation therapy, major surgery or investigational anticancer therapy, and patients must have recovered from prior toxicities. Study endpoints included response rate, duration of stable disease and progression-free survival. Thirteen patients were enrolled (9 males); 1 withdrew consent prior to starting therapy. Twelve patients received oral vorinostat 400 mg once daily and were evaluable for response. The median age was 54 years (range 40-82). All patients had received prior chemotherapy (including 10 with platinum- or taxane-based combination therapy), and 9 had prior radiation therapy. No confirmed partial or complete responses were observed. One unconfirmed partial response was seen. Three patients had stable disease ranging from 9 to 26 weeks. Nine patients discontinued due to progressive disease, two withdrew consent, and one discontinued therapy for grade 3 anorexia. Grades 3-4 drug-related toxicities included thrombocytopenia (n=3), anorexia (n=2), and dehydration (n=2). Oral vorinostat 400 mg qd was generally well tolerated but did not demonstrate efficacy as defined by tumor response in this small group of heavily pre-treated patients.