Pharmacokinetic parameters were determined in 18 lung cancer patients after a single administration of 800 mg/24 h of GaCl3: Cmax = 123 +/- 61 mu/l; Tmax = 5.2 +/- 5.5 h; AUCO-96h = 4690 +/- 3358 micrograms.l-1.h; AUCO - infinity = 6394 +/- 5352 micrograms.l-1.h; T 1/2 beta = 43 +/- 19 h. Serum Ga concentrations at the steady-state (Css) were then determined in these patients after a daily oral administration of 800 mg/24 h of GaCl3 for 15 days: Css = 274 +/- 167 micrograms/l. No correlation was found between Css and the previous pharmacokinetic parameters in each patient. Various doses of GaCl3 were administered daily to 45 patients to correlate Css and dosage. Serum Ga concentrations increased with dosage from 100 to 400 mg/24 h (p less than 0.05), but not with further dosages up to 1400 mg/24 h. The optimal daily dose of GaCl3 in lung cancer patients seems to be 400 mg/24 h. In 2 patients, Ga was assayed after death in tissues. Ga concentrations were more than 10 micrograms/g in metastases, 3.6 +/- 2.9 micrograms/g in the primary tumor and 2.3 +/- 0.9 micrograms/g in the kidney. Due to the lack of renal and hematological toxicities and the significant uptake of Ga by the tumor, GaCl3 can be used orally in conjunction with other cytotoxic agents. We intend to evaluate its efficacy according to a randomized study comparing chemotherapy versus chemotherapy plus 400 mg/24 h of GaCl3.