Patients with malignant endocrine pancreatic tumors (EPTs) are responsive to combinations of chemotherapy with streptozotocin and 5-fluorouracil/doxorubicin, whereas patients with malignant carcinoids are not. For both categories of patients, alpha-interferon and/or somatostatin analogs can produce long-lasting responses. Cisplatin in combination with etoposide has been suggested to be effective in patients with malignant neuroendocrine carcinomas. The authors used this therapy as second-line or third-line treatment in patients with poorly differentiated and/or rapidly progressing disease. Thirty-six patients with histopathologically verified malignant neuroendocrine tumors were included: Eighteen tumors were of foregut origin, of which 5 were atypical, and 15 tumors were EPTs, of which 4 were poorly differentiated endocrine carcinomas. Three tumors were of midgut origin. The median patient age was 47.5 years. The median duration of disease from the time of diagnosis was 12 months. All patients had metastatic disease. Thirty of 36 patients had received previous treatment. Etoposide was given at a dose of 100 mg/m(2) per day for 3 days, and cisplatin was given at a dose of 45 mg/m(2) on Days 2 and 3 as a continuous intravenous infusion that was repeated every 4 weeks. Ten of 18 patients with foregut carcinoids (56%) responded radiologically and/or biochemically, with a median duration of 9 months; and 7 of 14 patients with EPTs (50%) responded radiologically and/or biochemically, with a median duration of 9 months. No difference in response was seen between patients with atypical or typical foregut carcinoids or between patients with well differentiated or poorly differentiated endocrine pancreatic carcinoma. Nineteen of 36 patients (53%) experienced World Health Organization (WHO) Grade 1-2 nephrotoxicity, and 23 patients (64%) suffered from WHO Grade 3-4 neutropenia. The combination of cisplatin and etoposide can produce significant responses in patients with heavily pretreated and poorly differentiated/rapidly progressing neuroendocrine tumors. The toxicity is considerable, and nephrotoxicity is the dose limiting factor. Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.