To assess the activity of paclitaxel in combination with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and leucovorin in breast cancer, a phase II trial was conducted in women with metastatic disease. Toxicity, response rate, median survival, median duration of response, and median time to disease progression were measured. Between January 1994 and May 1996, 47 patients with metastatic breast cancer and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status (PS) < or = 2 who had previously been treated with chemotherapy received 175 mg/m2 paclitaxel over 3 hours on day 1. After paclitaxel administration, 300 mg intravenous (i.v.) leucovorin over 30 minutes was administered followed by 350 mg/m2 i.v. push 5-FU. Both 5-FU and leucovorin were given on days 1-3. Treatment was repeated every 28 days for a minimum of 6 cycles per patient. Two (4%) patients had a complete response and 21 (45%) patients had a partial response for an overall response rate of 49% (95% confidence interval: 35%-63%). The median survival was 17.7 months, median duration of response was 8.6 months, and median time to disease progression was 6.3 months. There was no statistical difference in survival or time to progression between anthracycline-naive, anthracycline-sensitive, and anthracycline-resistant patients. Nine (19%) patients had grade 3 or 4 neutropenia, and no patient required blood or platelet transfusion. The most frequently observed nonhematologic toxicities were arthralgia and myalgia. Pharmacokinetic data were obtained on 19 patients. Responders had higher peak plasma concentrations of paclitaxel than nonresponders (4.46 vs. 2.9 micrograms/mL; P = 0.02). Paclitaxel/5-fluorouracil/leucovorin is an active, well-tolerated regimen for patients with metastatic breast cancer.