BACKGROUND: Cediranib (AZD2171), an oral pan-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor, was evaluated in this phase I study to determine its toxicity profile, dose-limiting toxicities (DLTs), maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics in children and adolescents with recurrent or refractory primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors. METHODS: Children and adolescents <22 years were enrolled into one of two strata: stratum I-those not receiving enzyme-inducing anticonvulsant drugs (EIACD) and stratum II-those receiving EIACDs. Dose-level selection was based on the continual reassessment method (CRM). RESULTS: Thirty-six eligible patients with median age of 12.7 years (range, 5.4-21.7 years) in stratum I (24 males) and 12 patients (7 males) in stratum II with median age of 13.4 years (range, 8.9-19.5 years) were initially assessed over a 4-week DLT evaluation period, modified to 6 weeks during the study. An MTD of 32 mg/m(2)/day was declared; however, excessive toxicities (transaminitis, proteinuria, diarrhea, hemorrhage, palmer-planter syndrome, reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy) in the expansion cohort treated at this dose suggested that it might not be tolerated over a longer time period. An expansion cohort at 20 mg/m(2)/day also demonstrated poor longer-term tolerability. Diffusion and perfusion MRI and PET imaging variables as well as biomarker analysis were performed and correlated with outcome. At 20 mg/m(2)/day, the median plasma area under the concentration-time curve at steady state was lower than that observed in adults at similar dosages. CONCLUSIONS: While the MTD of once daily oral cediranib in children with recurrent or progressive CNS tumors was initially defined as 32 mg/m(2)/day, this dose and 20 mg/m(2)/day were not considered tolerable over a protracted time period.