Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive disorder with poor prognosis. Response to treatment is infrequent and the use of immunosuppressive agents other than corticosteroids is the subject of ongoing discussion because of uncertain efficacy and side-effects. To determine the efficacy and safety of cyclophosphamide pulse therapy in IPF, this study retrospectively analysed 18 patients with progressive IPF who were treated with intermittent i.v. cyclophosphamide (1-13 g x month(-1)) and additional oral prednisolone for 1 yr. Static lung volumes, arterial oxygen tension (Pa,O2) at rest, clinical symptoms and potential treatment-related side-effects were recorded. Cyclophosphamide had to be stopped in one patient, owing to repeated pulmonary infection; 11 patients were responders (five improving, six stabilizing) and six patients deteriorated. The change in vital capacity (VC) of responders was +6.7+/-18.0% (mean +/-SD), compared with -20.6+/-18.2% in nonresponders (p=0.008). Pa,O2 remained constant in responders (+0.13+/-0.88 kPa (+1.0+/-6.6 mmHg)), while it decreased in nonresponders (-2.08+/-1.92 kPa (-15.6+/-14.4 mmHg, p=0.008)). Additional prednisolone was reduced by 19.1+/-13.4 mg in responders, compared with 6.7+/-16.3 mg in nonresponders (p=0.02). VC at initiation of therapy was higher in responders (60.2+/-10.2 versus 40.3+/-12.9% predicted; p=0.004). No side-effects occurred, other than respiratory tract infection. These data demonstrate that intravenous cyclophosphamide pulse therapy may be a favourable regimen for certain patients with progressive idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Patients with a vital capacity of more than 50% predicted and a shorter duration of disease may benefit most.