Between 1979 and 1988, 26 patients with pulmonary metastases from adult soft-tissue sarcomas were treated with Adriamycin (doxorubicin hydrochloride), Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), and DTIC before metastasectomy. Thirty-eight thoracotomies were performed with postoperative complications in 5 patients (5/38, 13.2%) and one postoperative death (1/38, 2.6%). Two patients had benign lesions at thoracotomy and were excluded from further survival analysis. The median survival of the remaining 24 patients after thoracotomy was 18.5 +/- 5.9 months, and the actuarial 5-year survival was 22%. Five patients (5/24, 21%) achieved a clinically complete response with preoperative chemotherapy, but all had recurrence in the lung and underwent resection of pulmonary metastases. Seven patients (7/24, 29%) achieved a partial response and had residual disease resected at thoracotomy. Twelve patients (12/24, 50%) showed either no change or disease progression while receiving chemotherapy and were referred for resection. Postthoracotomy disease-free survival and postthoracotomy overall survival did not differ significantly between the three groups. One patient in the group showing no change or progression of disease while receiving chemotherapy is alive without recurrence 57 months after initial pulmonary metastasectomy. Chemotherapy can be used for the initial treatment of pulmonary metastases from adult soft-tissue sarcomas. However, survival after resection of pulmonary metastases cannot be accurately predicted based on the clinical response to preoperative chemotherapy.