To assess the efficacy and safety of Adriamycin (Adria Laboratories, Columbus, OH) in inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), 60 patients were randomized to receive Adriamycin 60 to 75 mg/m2 at 3-week intervals and 46 patients to receive no antitumor therapy. The median survival rate of the Adriamycin group was 10.6 weeks; that of the group receiving no antitumor therapy was 7.5 weeks (P = 0.036). Adriamycin induced tumor regression of 25% to 50% in 5% of patients and of over 50% in only 3.3% of patients. It caused fatal complications (septicemia and cardiotoxicity) in 25% of patients. The severity of neutropenia leading to septicemia for a particular dose was unpredictable. Four of eight patients who developed cardiotoxicity received less than 500 mg/m2 of Adriamycin. We conclude that Adriamycin is not an ideal drug for the treatment of inoperable HCC.