Background: The purine nucleoside phosphorylase inhibitor peldesine is a new agent being evaluated as a T-cell inhibitor. Objective: We attempted to determine the efficacy of peldesine (BCX-34) in a 1% dermal cream formulation as a treatment for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Methods: Ninety patients with patch and plaque phase CTCL, histologically confirmed by a referee dermatopathologist, were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BCX-34 dermal cream 1% or the vehicle cream (as a placebo control) was applied twice daily to the entire skin surface for up to 24 weeks. Efficacy of the topical therapy was assessed in terms of complete or partial (≥ 50%) clearing of patches and plaques. Results: Of the 89 patients able to be examined, 43 received BCX-34 and 46 received the placebo vehicle cream. One patient withdrew early and was not analyzed. The two groups were well balanced for potential prognostic factors. A total of 28% (12/43) of the patients treated with BCX-34 showed a response, but 24% (11/46) of patients who received vehicle also responded (P = .677). Conclusion: Although BCX-34 dermal cream 1% was not significantly better than the control as therapy for patch and plaque-phase CTCL, this appears to be the first published placebo-controlled trial evaluating treatment for CTCL. Whether the vehicle cream has more than a placebo therapeutic effect is unclear. The relatively high (24%) placebo response rate should be kept in mind in assessing other treatments for early-stage CTCL.