Life-threatening irreversible cardiomyopathy is a major complication of anthracycline therapy, particularly in the pediatric population. The pediatric cardiologist, in concert with the primary oncologist, should therefore play a major role in the care of patients receiving these agents and in clinical trials involving their use. Many risk factors and their relationships to drug pharmacokinetics, mechanisms of action, and toxicity have been identified. These data provide a rational basis for present-day recommendations regarding anthracycline administration and dosage scheduling. They furthermore provide potential avenues for clinical investigation aimed at improving the therapeutic index of these agents: α-tocopherol, cytochrome Q10, and other free radical scavengers may decrease the deleterious effects of free radical generation on the myocardium without apparent interference with tumoricidal effect. The cardiac glycosides may decrease cardiac toxicity by specific myocardial exclusion. Anthracycline analogs have been designed to specifically inhibit myocardial binding and/or free radical generation. Clinical trials involving these agents are difficult to interpret because of variability in front end risk factors and dosage schedules in the study population. Furthermore, the relatively low (5 to 10%) incidence of affected patients implies the need for large numbers to demonstrate a statistically significant benefit. Pediatric protocols addressing these issues are urgently needed. Guidelines for present-day management and future studies are outlined.