A non-parametric multi-dimensional isotonic regression estimator is developed for use in estimating a set of target quantiles from an ordinal toxicity scale. We compare this estimator to the standard parametric maximum likelihood estimator from a proportional odds model for extremely small data sets. A motivating example is from phase I oncology clinical trials, where various non-parametric designs have been proposed that lead to very small data sets, often with ordinal toxicity response data. Our comparison of estimators is performed in conjunction with three of these non-parametric sequential designs for ordinal response data, two from the literature and a new design based on a random walk rule. We also compare with a non-parametric design for binary response trials, by keeping track of ordinal data for estimation purposes, but dichotomizing the data in the design phase. We find that a multidimensional isotonic regression-based estimator far exceeds the others in terms of accuracy and efficiency. A rule by Simon et al. (J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 1997; 89:1138-1147) yields particularly efficient estimators, more so than the random walk rule, but has higher numbers of dose-limiting toxicity. A small data set from a leukemia clinical trial is analysed using our multidimensional isotonic regression-based estimator.