The aims of this study were to determine the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), toxicity profile, and pharmacokinetics of irinotecan given with oral R115777 (tipifarnib), a farnesyl protein transferase inhibitor. Patients were treated with escalating doses of irinotecan with interval-modulated dosing of R115777 (continuously or on days 1-14, and repeated every 21 days). In total, 35 patients were entered onto the trial for a median duration of treatment of 43 days (range, 5-224 days). Neutropenia and thrombocytopenia were the dose-limiting toxicities; other side effects were mostly mild. The MTD was established at R115777 300 mg b.i.d. for 14 consecutive days with irinotecan 350 mg x m(-2) given every 3 weeks starting on day 1. Three patients had a partial response and 14 had stable disease. In the continuous schedule, the area under the curves of irinotecan and its active metabolite SN-38 were 20.0% (P=0.004) and 38.0% (P<0.001) increased by R115777, respectively. Intermittent dosing of R115777 at a dose of 300 mg b.i.d. for 14 days every 3 weeks is the recommended dose of R115777 in combination with the recommended single-agent irinotecan dose of 350 mg x m(-2).