BACKGROUND: We analyzed retrospectively the clinical features and treatment-related parameters of the aggressive non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL) treated with combination chemotherapy containing doxorubicin to determine the prognostic factors for the response to the treatment and overall survival. METHODS: Adult patients with aggressive NHL who were treated between 1984 to 1993 were evaluated retrospectively for clinical features and treatment-related parameters predictive of the response to the treatment and overall survival, respectively. RESULTS: At 2 years, relapse-free survival and overall survival were 62.2% and 82.6%, respectively, with a median follow-up time of 23.5 months. Significant independent prognostic factors for overall survival were serum LDH level and the complete response (CR) time-interval. For relapse-free survival, the CR time-interval was a significant independent prognostic factor. CONCLUSION: The rapid induction of complete response has a significant implication in the prognosis of aggressive NHL. Appropriate selection of treatment according to the CR time-interval as well as the clinical features of aggressive NHL will improve the overall survival in aggressive NHL.