The aim of the study was to investigate the safety of adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) administration at home in pre-terminal cancer patients. Included were patients with cancer for whom medical treatment options were restricted to supportive care, who had a life expectancy of less than 6 months, a World Health Organization performance status 1 or 2, and suffered from at least one of the following complaints: fatigue, anorexia or weight loss >5% over the previous 6 months. Side effects were registered systematically on a standard form according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Common Toxicity Criteria. Fifty-one patients received a total of 266 intravenous ATP infusions. Of these, 11 infusions (4%) were given at the lowest dose of 20 mug kg(-1) min(-1), 85 infusions (32%) at 25-40 mug kg(-1) min(-1), and 170 (64%) at the highest dose of 45-50 mug kg(-1) min(-1) ATP. The majority of ATP infusions (63%) were without side effects. Dyspnea was the most common side effect (14% of infusions), followed by chest discomfort (12%) and the urge to take a deep breath (11%). No symptoms of cardiac ischemia occurred in any of the infusions. All side effects were transient and resolved within minutes after lowering the ATP infusion rate. Side effects were most frequent in the presence of cardiac disorders. We conclude that ATP at a maximum dose of 50 mug kg(-1) min(-1) can be safely administered in the home setting in patients with pre-terminal cancer.