PURPOSE: To establish the safety and tolerability of ZD1839 (Iressa), a selective epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor, and to explore its pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic effects in patients with selected solid tumor types. PATIENTS AND METHODS: This was a phase I dose-escalating trial of oral ZD1839 150 mg/d to a maximum of 1,000 mg/d given once daily for at least 28 days. Patients with either advanced non-small-cell lung, ovarian, head and neck, prostate, or colorectal cancer were recruited. RESULTS: Eighty-eight patients received ZD1839 (150 to 1,000 mg/d). At 1,000 mg/d, five of 12 patients experienced dose-limiting toxicity (grade 3 diarrhea [four patients] and grade 3 somnolence [one patient]). The most frequent drug-related adverse events (AEs) were acne-like rash (64%) and diarrhea (47%), which were generally mild (grade 1/2) and reversible on cessation of treatment. No change in ZD1839 safety profile was observed with prolonged administration. Pharmacokinetic analysis showed steady-state exposure to ZD1839 in 98% of patients by day 7. Nineteen patients had stable disease and received ZD1839 for >or= 3 months; seven of these patients remained on study drug for >or= 6 months. Serial skin biopsies taken before treatment and at approximately day 28 revealed changes indicative of inhibition of the EGFR signaling pathway. CONCLUSION: ZD1839 was generally well tolerated, with manageable and reversible AEs at doses up to 600 mg/d and dose-limiting toxicity observed at 1,000 mg/d. ZD1839 treatment resulted in clinically meaningful disease stabilization across a range of tumor types and doses. Pharmacodynamic changes in skin confirmed inhibition of EGFR signaling, which was predicted from the mode of action of ZD1839.