The primary aim of this randomized trial was to determine response rate and progression-free survival following chemotherapy in patients with platinum-resistant recurrent ovarian cancer, who had been treated according to an ATP-based tumour chemosensitivity assay in comparison with physician's choice. A total of 180 patients were randomized to assay-directed therapy (n=94) or physician's-choice chemotherapy (n=86). Median follow-up at analysis was 18 months. Response was assessable in 147 patients: 31.5% achieved a partial or complete response in the physician's-choice group compared with 40.5% in the assay-directed group (26 versus 31% by intention-to-treat analysis respectively). Intention-to-treat analysis showed a median progression-free survival of 93 days in the physician's-choice group and 104 days in the assay-directed group (hazard ratio 0.8, 95% confidence interval 0.59–1.10, not significant). No difference was seen in overall survival between the groups, although 12/39 (41%) of patients who crossed over from the physician's-choice arm obtained a response. Increased use of combination therapy was seen in the physician's-choice arm during the study as a result of the observed effects of assay-directed therapy in patients. Patients entering the physician's-choice arm of the study during the first year did significantly worse than those who entered in the subsequent years (hazard ratio 0.44, 95% confidence interval 0.2–0.9, P<0.03). This small randomized clinical trial has documented a trend towards improved response and progression-free survival for assay-directed treatment. Chemosensitivity testing might provide useful information in some patients with ovarian cancer, although a larger trial is required to confirm this. The ATP-based tumour chemosensitivity assay remains an investigational method in this condition.