SR 4233 (3-amino-1,2,4-benzotriazine 1,4-dioxide, WIN 59075, tirapazamine) is the lead compound in a new class of bioreductive anticancer drugs, the benzotriazine di-N-oxides. It is currently undergoing Phase I clinical testing. The preferential tumour cell killing of SR 4233 is a result of its high specific toxicity to cells at low oxygen tensions. Such hypoxic cells are a common feature of solid tumours, but not normal tissues, and are resistant to cancer therapies including radiation and some anticancer drugs. The killing of these tumour cells by SR 4233, particularly when given on multiple occasions, can increase total tumour cell killing by fractionated irradiation by several orders of magnitude without increasing toxicity to surrounding normal tissues. Topics covered in this review include the rationale for developing a hypoxic cytotoxic agent, the cytotoxicity of SR 4233 as a function of oxygen concentration, the mechanism of action of the drug and its intracellular target and the in vivo evidence that the drug may be useful as an adjunct both to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Finally, the major unanswered questions on the drug are outlined.