In a Phase II study, patients with measurable metastatic or recurrent esophageal carcinoma randomly received after Adriamycin (ADR), 60 mg/M2 I.V. q three weeks, or methotrexate (MTX), 40 mg/M2 I.V. q one week, or 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), 500 mg/m2 I.V. x 5 days q five weeks. Objective partial response rates for 72 patients were 5% for ADR (one of 20), 12% for MTX (three of 26), and 15% for 5-FU (four of 26). There were no complete responses. Median duration of response was 13 weeks. Median survival was 14 weeks (eight weeks for ADR, 14 weeks for MTX, and 15 weeks for 5-FU). Factors of liver metastasis, adjacent anatomic involvement, time from initial diagnosis to study entry, and prior radiation were found to be significant determinants of survival. Adriamycin did not appear to benefit patients with advanced measurable squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. Methotrexate and 5-fluorouracil showed comparable activity and survival, although methotrexate was slightly more toxic.