This randomised phase II study was performed in order to evaluate the effectiveness of a weekly chemotherapy regimen in advanced prostatic carcinoma patients (stage D2) refractory to hormonal therapy. Seventy-two cases were studied: they were randomised in a 2:1 ratio to receive either epirubicin (30 mg m-2 weekly) or doxorubicin (25 mg m-2 weekly); 48 patients received epirubicin and 24 received doxorubicin. After 12 courses of chemotherapy, the 45 evaluable patients in the epirubicin arm showed a response rate of 37.7% and the 21 evaluable patients in the doxorubicin arm showed a response rate of 33.3% (P = 0.51). Pain intensity, bone and prostatic tumour markers rapidly and significantly decreased in responders. An improvement in physical symptoms, functional conditions and in emotional well-being was observed in the majority of the treated patients. The histological analysis of bone metastases, performed before and after 12 courses of chemotherapy showed a significant reduction in neoplastic invasion and in new bone formation in responders. Cardiac performance worsened in five out of 45 patients and in ten out of 21 during the first 12 courses of epirubicin or doxorubicin respectively (P = 0.014). The median survival was 12.5 months in the epirubicin arm and 8.0 months in the doxorubicin arm (P = 0.042). Our data indicate that in advanced prostatic carcinoma, a weekly epirubicin regimen may give rapid palliative results, similar to that of doxorubicin, but with less side-effects.