A prospective study was made to assess the short-term clinical and endoscopic response to high-dose-rate endobronchial brachytherapy (HDREB) in patients with malignant endobronchial tumours. From July 1995 to May 2000, 288 HDREB sessions were carried out on 81 patients. The mean patient age was 61.57 yrs (range 34-82); males were predominant (87.65%). Tumours were primary in 76 patients (93.82%) and metastatic in five patients (6.18%). The inclusion criteria were malignant endobronchial tumour and either palliative treatment for incurable disease or intent-to-cure treatment for residual malignancy on the bronchial resection surface after surgery or an inoperable tumour. The exclusion criteria were as follows: impediments to catheter placement, expected survival <2 months, Karnofsky index <60, or absence of informed consent. The clinical response of a symptom was categorised as complete (disappearance of the symptom), partial (less than complete) or absent. The endoscopic response was considered to be complete if lesions disappeared and biopsy findings remained negative 1 month after the last radiation session; partial if lesions improved to some extent, but the biopsy findings were positive; and absent if there was no change in relation to baseline. The technique consisted of delivering high-dose irradiation from an Ir192 source to a target volume using one or two endobronchial catheters inserted under optical or video bronchoscopic guidance. Four sessions were scheduled at weekly intervals and 500 cGy was applied per session over a length of 1-9 cm, measured 0.5-1 cm from the centre of the source. In total, 85% of the symptoms analysed (haemoptysis, cough, dyspnoea, expectoration, and stridor) disappeared with HDREB, which was categorised as a complete response. The endoscopic response was complete in 56.79% of patients, partial or less than complete in 40.74% and absent in 2.46%. One major complication occurred (bronchial fistula 1.2%), but no lethal haemoptysis. Minor complications (pneumonitis, bronchospasm and bronchial stenosis) each occurred in one patient (1.2%). High-dose-rate endobronchial brachytherapy is a good palliative treatment for endoluminal lung neoplasms, effectively alleviating symptoms and endoscopic evidence in many cases with an acceptable rate of complications. High-dose-rate endobronchial brachytherapy can be carried out as an intent-to-cure procedure in highly selected cases.