BACKGROUND: The current study investigated the efficacy, safety, tolerability, and compliance of a transdermal buprenorphine delivery system for the management of chronic cancer pain in the pediatric population. PROCEDURE: Sixteen pediatric patients with moderate to severe cancer-related pain not satisfactorily controlled with previous non-opioid therapies were enrolled. Transdermal buprenorphine was administered following a 72 hour schedule and rescue medication (tramadol) was allowed for breakthrough pain. Pain intensity was assessed using the Wong-Baker faces pain rating scale (WBS) and other parameters related to the global quality of life were evaluated. Children’s evaluations of efficacy, compliance, and tolerability were recorded using numerical scales. Adverse events were monitored during the study and the medications needed to control opioid-related nausea and constipation were recorded. RESULTS: Eleven patients (68.75%) responded to transdermal buprenorphine after 2 weeks of treatment. Pain intensity measured with WBS decreased from 6.25 at baseline to 1.38 at Day +60 (P < 0.001). All outcome measures of global quality of life (quality of sleep, alimentation, play and activity, speech, and crying) significantly improved over the 60-day study period. Children's evaluations of compliance and tolerability of the drug were always positive over the entire period of treatment. No severe adverse events were recorded. Opioid-related nausea was well controlled with medication on request, and the need for laxative therapy was greater at the end of the second month of treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Transdermal buprenorphine was found to represent an efficient, safe and well tolerated approach to the management of children's chronic cancer pain.