Head and neck cancer locally recurrent after previous irradiation and surgery presents a difficult management problem. Conventional treatment alternatives include chemotherapy, reirradiation with interstitial implant, and hyperthermia. Reirradiation with external beam is generally not considered because of previous high radiation dose and limited tissue tolerance. In this study, 21 patients with recurrent and previously irradiated head and neck cancer were treated in a Phase I-II fashion. Patients received 5 days of 5-fluorouracil, 300 mg/m2/day IV bolus, Hydroxyurea 1.5 or 2 g/day by mouth and external beam radiation therapy every 2 weeks for up to four courses. Of 20 evaluable patients, 9 have attained a complete response (CR) and 6 a partial response (PR). Fifteen patients completed all planned therapy, eight on time, seven patients with delays. With a median follow-up of 7 months, 13 patients are alive, 7 disease-free (3 after salvage surgery) and 6 with recurrence. Eight patients have died. The 1-year survival is 56%. Treatment toxicity was mainly neutropenia. No major early or late radiation related side effects have been observed at a median follow-up of 7 months. Neither previous radiation dose, time since first radiation, prior chemotherapy, or site of recurrence was predictive of response or treatment tolerance. Patients with a performance status of at least 80 had a significant higher CR rate, with 7/10 patients in this group, as compared to 2/10 patients in patients with a performance status less than 80, achieving a CR. Reirradiation with 5-fluorouracil and hydroxyurea is a well tolerated outpatient treatment program for patients with recurrent and previous irradiated head and neck cancer that produces a high response rate and can provide significant palliation of symptoms.