Attempts to administer personalized standard cytotoxic chemotherapy based on individual patient characteristics have been disappointing. Alkylating agents are one of the oldest classes of anticancer medicine with a wide variety of molecular actions and thus the potential for broad utility. Bendamustine hydrochloride, a new addition to this class, was previously developed in the 1960s and has now been trialled in hematological malignancies and many solid tumor types as monotherapy or in combination with the known standard of care. It appears to occupy a particular role in resistant or refractory hematological disease and it was approved by the US FDA for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia in March 2008. Further trials will reveal whether it is likely to become incorporated into front-line regimens in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other malignancies.