Fostriecin is an antitumor antibiotic with marked activity against ovarian, breast, and lung cancer cell lines in the human tumor clonogenic assay. The mechanism of cytotoxicity in vivo is unknown; in vitro it has been shown to inhibit macromolecular synthesis, interact with the reduced folate carrier system, and inhibit topoisomerase II. Phase I testing of fostriecin in a daily for 5 days schedule has begun in cancer patients. A high-pressure liquid chromatographic method to measure fostriecin in plasma samples was developed using sulfaquinoxaline as an internal standard and ultraviolet detection (268 nm). The extraction efficiency is 70% and the sensitivity limit is 100 ng/ml. The pharmacokinetics of fostriecin were determined in six rabbits following intravenous injection of 12 mg/m2. The mean distribution space was 4.44 L/m2 and the mean plasma clearance was 302 ml/min/m2. The elimination half-life was 11.95 +/- 8.55 min. All rabbits exhibited a 10-60-fold increase in aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) that resolved within 48 h of drug administration.