An isocratic high-performance liquid chromatographic method has been developed and validated for the quantitative determination of paclitaxel (Taxol), a novel antimitotic, anticancer agent, in human plasma. The analysis required 0.5 ml of plasma, and was accomplished by detection of the UV absorbance of paclitaxel at 227 nm following extraction and concentration. The method involved extraction of paclitaxel from plasma, buffered with 0.5 ml of 0.2 M ammonium acetate (pH 5.0), onto 1-ml cyano Bond Elut columns. The eluent was evaporated under nitrogen and low heat, and reconstituted with the mobile phase, acetonitrile-methanol-water (4:1:5, v/v/v) containing 0.01 M ammonium acetate (pH 5.0). The samples were chromatographed on a reversed-phase octyl 5 microns column. The retention time of paclitaxel was 10 min. The validated quantitation range of the method was 10-1000 ng/ml (0.012-1.17 microM) of paclitaxel in plasma. Standard curve correlation coefficients of 0.995 or greater were obtained during validation experiments and analysis of clinical study samples. The observed recovery for paclitaxel was 83%. Epitaxol, a biologically active stereoisomer, and baccatin III, a degradation product, were also chromatographically separated from taxol by this assay. The method was applied to samples from a clinical study of paclitaxel in cancer patients, providing a pharmacokinetic profiling of paclitaxel.