This randomized phase II trial was performed to define the activity and toxicity of the combination of dacarbazine (DTIC), carmustine (BCNU), cisplatin (DDP) and tamoxifen (DBDT regimen) versus DTIC alone in patients with metastatic melanoma. Sixty patients with metastatic melanoma were randomly assigned to receive BCNU 150 mg/m2 intravenously (i.v.) on day 1, cisplatin 25 mg/m2 i.v. daily on days 1 to 3, DTIC 220 mg/m2 i.v. daily on days 1 to 3 and tamoxifen 160 mg orally daily for 7 days prior to chemotherapy (DBDT arm; arm A). Treatment cycles were repeated every 28 days, while BCNU was given every two cycles. The DTIC arm (arm B) patients received DTIC alone 1200 mg/m2 i.v. on day 1, repeated every 21 days. Patients were evaluated every two cycles; responding patients continued the treatment for a maximum of 12 cycles. The overall response rate was 26% in the DBDT arm and 5% in the DTIC arm. Complete responses were 2.5% for DBDT and 0% for DTIC. The median progression-free survival and the median survival were 4 and 9 months, respectively for DBDT, and 2 and 7 months for DTIC. DBDT was associated with significant haematological toxicity: 33% of the patients experienced a grade III or IV neutropenia and 28% a grade III or IV thrombocytopenia. In conclusion, the overall response rate obtained with DBDT was greater than that obtained with DTIC alone; however, this combination increases toxicity with limited impact on overall survival.