To test the feasibility and efficacy of epirubicin and ifosfamide added to first-line chemotherapy with cisplatin and paclitaxel in a phase II randomised clinical trial. Patients with histologically proven epithelial ovarian cancer were randomly assigned to receive first-line polychemotherapy with cisplatin/paclitaxel/epirubicin (CEP) or cisplatin/paclitaxel/ifosfamide (CIP) for six cycles every 21 days. Two hundred and eight patients were randomised between the two treatment arms and the median number of cycles per patient was six. Toxicity was predominantly haematological with both regimens; however, anaemia, leucopaenia, neutropaenic fever and use of granulocyte colony-stimulating factors and transfusion were significantly more frequent in the CIP treatment arm. Response rates were 85% (95% confidence interval (CI) 77-93%) in the CIP arm and 90% (95% CI 84-96%) in the CEP arm; complete response rates were 48 and 52%. After a median follow-up of 82 months, median overall survival (OS) was 51 and 65 months; 5-year survival rates were respectively 43 and 50%. In this clinical trial, both regimens showed good efficacy, but toxicity was heavier with the CIP regimen. Considering that more than 50% of patients were suboptimally debulked after the first surgery, OS seems to be longer than is commonly reported. This unexpected finding might be a consequence of the close surgical surveillance and aggressive chemotherapeutic approach.