This phase II study evaluates the efficacy and toxicity of a prolonged schedule second-line and third-line treatment of oral VP16 in patients with measurable advanced ovarian cancer resistant to, or relapsed following, platinum-based chemotherapy. Twenty-two eligible women with progressive or relapsed ovarian cancer resistant to platinum-based therapy were included in this study. All the patients had received more than one prior treatment, and had evidence of disease progression within 6 months of the previous chemotherapy. Eleven patients had received more than two different chemotherapy regimens. Fifteen patients had received consolidation therapy with intraperitoneal cisplatin after an initial treatment course with six cycles of a platinum-based combination regimen. All patients with measurable disease observed in abdominal computed tomography scans were given oral VP16 at a daily dose of 50 mg/m(2) for 14 consecutive days with 4 weekly intervals. Among 22 assessable patients, there were one complete response (CR) and three partial responses (PR), so the objective response rate, which is the addition of CR and PR rates, was 18%. Seven patients (32%) had stable disease. Median duration of response and stable disease was 2.5 months (range: 1-10 months). Overall median survival was 11 months from study entry (range: 3-36 months). Toxicity for most patients was mild, but a few severe myelotoxicities occurred, and there were no treatment-related deaths. According to World Health Organization toxicity criteria grade III/IV thrombocytopenia was seen in 4 of 22 patients, grade III/IV neutropenia in 6 of 22 patients, and grade III anemia was observed in 3 of 22 patients. Non-hematologic toxicity was mild, and mucositis was the most frequently observed nonhematologic toxicity. Oral etoposide has considerable activity with a tolerable toxicity profile for the treatment of platinum-resistant epithelial ovarian cancer.