(6R)-5,10-Dideaza-5,6,7,8-tetrahydrofolic acid (lometrexol) is an antipurine antifolate which selectively inhibits glycinamide ribonucleotide formyltransferase. Lometrexol pharmacokinetics were evaluated in 17 patients (32 courses) as part of a Phase I study in which folic acid supplementation was used to improve tolerance to the drug, its clinical utility being previously limited by severe cumulative toxicity. Lometrexol was administered as an i.v. bolus every 4 weeks at a starting dose of 12 mg/m2, with subsequent interpatient dose escalation to 16, 30, and 45 mg/m2. p.o. folic acid (5 mg/day) was given for 7 days before and 7 days after lometrexol administration. The disposition of total lometrexol in plasma was best described by a biexponential model for data acquired up to 12 h after drug administration, although triexponential plasma pharmacokinetics were often found to give a more adequate description when data were available at later time intervals (24 h and greater). Mean plasma half-lives (+ SD) for model-dependent analysis were t1/2alpha 19 +/- 7 min, t1/2beta 256 +/- 96 min, and t1/2gamma (where measurable) 1170 +/- 435 min. Lometrexol area under plasma concentration versus time curve was proportional to the dose administered. Moderate plasma protein binding of lometrexol was evident (78 +/- 3%) with an inverse linear relationship between fraction of unbound lometrexol and the concentration of serum albumin. The volume of distribution of lometrexol at steady state was between 4.7 and 15.8 l/m2. Renal elimination of lometrexol, studied in 19 patients (21 courses), was considerable, accounting for 56 +/- 17% of the total dose administered within 6 h of treatment, and 85 +/- 16% within 24 h of treatment. These recoveries of unchanged lometrexol indicate that the drug does not appear to undergo appreciable systemic metabolism at the range of concentrations studied. Lometrexol pharmacokinetics were also examined in seven patients who received 45 or 60 mg/m2 lometrexol as part of a separate study of the drug given with folinic acid rescue 5-7 days after treatment. No marked differences were evident in lometrexol plasma half-lives, plasma clearance, or the extent of plasma protein binding, indicating that there is not a pronounced pharmacokinetic interaction between lometrexol and folic acid.