We performed a retrospective review of 65 patients with nonmetastatic clinical inflammatory breast carcinoma treated with radical radiotherapy as the sole local treatment between 1968 and 1986. Chemotherapy was given to 47 patients (72%). The median total radiation dose to the target volume was 6,984 cGy. With a median follow-up in survivors of 41 months, the 5-year actuarial probability of relapse-free survival was 17% and the overall survival was 28%. Thirty patients experienced failure in the treated breast, skin, or draining lymph nodes, for a crude, uncensored local recurrence rate of 46%. Of the factors analyzed, only the response to initial chemotherapy was predictive of local recurrence. Local recurrence was noted in 0 of 3 patients with a complete response (CR) to initial chemotherapy, 5 of 17 patients with a partial response (PR), and 12 of 17 patients with less than a partial response (CR/PR versus less than PR, p = 0.009). We conclude that conventional radical radiotherapy in unselected patients is insufficient to manage the local tumor burden presented by inflammatory breast cancer, even when high doses are employed.