A liquid chromatographic/tandem mass spectrometric (LC/MS/MS) assay for the quantitative analysis of the novel anticancer drug ABT-518 and the screening of six potential metabolites in human plasma has been developed and validated to support a phase I study with the drug. ABT-518 is an inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases, which are associated with tumor growth and development of metastasis. Plasma samples were prepared for analysis using a simple solid-phase extraction method on phenyl cartridges. LC separation was performed on a Zorbax extend C18 column (150 × 2.1 mm i.d., 5 μm particle size) using a mobile phase of methanol-aqueous 10 mM ammonium hydroxide (80:20, v/v) pumped at a flow-rate of 0.2 ml min-1. An API2000 triple-quadrupole mass spectrometer was used for specific and sensitive detection. The best chromatographic speed (total run time 8 min) and peak shapes were obtained by employing an alkaline mobile phase (pH in aqueous phase ∼10). Furthermore, an alkaline eluent was favored in order to obtain a better overall sensitivity for the protonated analytes. The dynamic range was from 10 to 1000 ng ml-1 from 500 μl of plasma for ABT-518 and the metabolites were detected at levels of the same order of magnitude. Inter-assay accuracies for ABT-518 at five concentration levels were between -9.24 and 6.93% and inter-assay precisions were always <10.7%. Analyte stability was not critical during either storage or processing. This method was successfully applied in a phase I clinical study of ABT-518. The active drug, ABT-518, and all of the metabolites included in the assay could be identified in plasma from dosed patients. We believe that the method described in this paper using an alkaline mobile phase in combination with a basic stable analytical column may also be generally useful for the bioanalysis of other basic drugs.