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Preclinical models have shown that TAC-101 (4-[3,5-bis(trimethylsilyl) benzamide] benzoic acid), an oral synthetic retinoid, has antitumor activity in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We conducted a phase I study in Japanese patients with advanced HCC to examine the pharmacokinetics, recommended dose, safety, and efficacy of TAC-101. The administered dose of TAC-101 was 10 mg/day in four patients (level 1), 20 mg/day in six (level 2), and 30 mg/day in three (level 3). There was no dose-limiting toxicity at level 1. Only one patient each had dose-limiting toxicity at level 2 (grade 2 fatigue, recovery requiring eight or more consecutive days of rest) and at level 3 (grade 3 splenic vein thrombosis). Level 3 (30 mg/day) was considered the maximum tolerated dose and 20 mg/day the recommended dose by a panel of medical experts, placing maximum emphasis on safety. The most frequent adverse events were fatigue, headache, and dermal symptoms such as rash. Pharmacokinetic parameters in Japanese patients with HCC were similar to those in patients in the United States, most of whom were Caucasian. Although no patient had a complete or partial response, the disease control rate was 38.5%. In conclusion, the recommended dose of TAC-101 for patients with HCC is 20 mg/day. TAC-101 had an acceptable toxicity profile, warranting further evaluation in clinical trials. (Cancer Sci, doi: 10.1111/j.1349-7006.2012.02334.x, 2012)