AG331 (N6-[4-(morpholinosulfonyl)benzyl]-N6-methyl-2, 6-diaminobenz-[c,d]-indole glucuronate) is a lipophilic thymidylate synthase inhibitor with activity in solid tumor models. On the basis of preclinical data supporting regimens of frequent drug administration, we performed a Phase I trial of AG331 as a 5-day continuous infusion repeated every 3 weeks. Twenty-nine patients were entered at doses ranging from 25 to 1000 mg/m2/day. The major side effects were mild to moderate fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. At doses >/=400 mg/m2, acute reversible elevation of bilirubin, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase was observed. All patients who received >/=600 mg/m2/day experienced elevated alanine aminotransferase. Elevated liver function tests were evident by day 3 of the infusion and had resolved by day 8 in the majority. This toxicity was dose limiting at 1000 mg/m2/day, at which dose two of two patients developed grade 4 reversible hyperbilirubinemia in addition to the enzyme elevations. Serum and urine samples were analyzed by a novel high-pressure liquid chromatography method for the determination of the pharmacokinetics of AG331. Over the 50-1000 mg/m2/day dose range, mean total clearance ranged from 11.6 to 30.0 liters/h/m2, and volume of distribution at steady state ranged from 279.5 to 758.7 liters/m2. These parameters were dose independent over the dose range tested. The harmonic mean terminal half-life of AG331 was 20.2 h. Less than 5% of an AG331 dose is eliminated unchanged in the urine. Both the administered dose and exposure to the drug were related to the changes in bilirubin and aminotransferase blood levels. Evidence for inhibition of thymidylate synthase was obtained at doses ranging from 100 to 1000 mg/m2 in seven patients; plasma deoxyuridine concentrations at end-infusion were 1.8-3.8-fold higher than pretreatment values. Because of the nature of toxicity on this schedule, more extensive Phase II evaluation is not recommended, although an AG331 dose of 800 mg/m2/day for 5 days is tolerable. Exploration of less frequent dose administration is under way.