Bryostatin 1 is a naturally occurring macrocyclic lactone with promising antitumour and immunomodulatory function in preclinical and phase I clinical investigations. In this phase II study, 17 patients with progressive non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of indolent type (NHL), previously treated with chemotherapy, received a median of 6 (range 1-9) intravenous infusions of 25 microg/m(2) bryostatin 1 given once weekly over 24 hours. In 14 evaluable patients no responses were seen. Stable disease was attained in one patient for 9 months. The principal toxicities were myalgia and phlebitis. Treatment was discontinued early because of toxicity alone (phlebitis) in 2 patients, toxicity in addition to progressive disease in 3 patients (myalgia and phlebitis n = 2; thrombocytopenia n = 1) and progressive disease in 5 patients. The results fail to demonstrate efficacy of this regimen of bryostatin 1 in the treatment of NHL. In light of preclinical data that demonstrate synergy between bryostatin 1 and several cytotoxic agents and cytokines, clinical studies to investigate bryostatin 1 in combination are warranted. We also present data to demonstrate that central venous lines may be used in future studies to avoid phlebitis.