BACKGROUND: The combination of interferon-alpha2a (IFN-alpha2a) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) induces objective responses in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (MRCC). Anaemia is associated with poor cancer control and reduced quality of life. The aim of the study was to investigate response rate and quality of life in patients with MRCC receiving the combination of Erythropoetin, IFN-alpha2a and IL-2. MATERIAL AND METHOD: Patients with MRCC received epoetin beta (150 IU/kg and haemoglobin <130 g/l or 75 IU/kg and haemoglobin >or=130 g/l) three times weekly, from 14 days before and continuing throughout immunotherapy. In weeks 3-6 the patients received IFN-alpha2a 6 x 10(6) IU/m2 and IL-2 4.5 x 10(6) IU/m2 three times weekly on days 1, 3 and 5. The treatment was repeated two times and in the case of success a third cycle was added. The quality of life was assessed with the FACT questionnaire for fatigue, before, during and after therapy. RESULTS: A total of 21 patients were treated, 19 of whom could be evaluated concerning response, toxicity and quality of life. We observed 1 complete remission, 2 partial remissions, 5 cases of stable disease and 11 with progressive disease. The overall response rate was 16%. Toxicity was mild to moderate; there were no WHO grade III or IV toxicity. The quality of life increased in ten patients, nine of whom exhibited an increase in their haemoglobin during therapy. Five of the nine patients with decreased quality of life also experienced a decrease in their haemoglobin. The correlation of increased haemoglobin and quality of life was significant (p<0.05). CONCLUSION: The combination of IFN-alpha2a, IL-2 and epoetin beta resulted in objective remissions with mild to moderate toxicity. The quality of life correlates significantly with increasing haemoglobin.