This paper reports the release characteristics of a radiosensitizer, 5-iodo-2'-deoxyuridine (IdUrd), from poly (D,L-lactide-co-glycolide) 50: 50 (PLGA) microparticles obtained by a phase separation technique. Poly (D,L-lactide) oligomers (D,L-PLA) were incorporated into the PLGA matrix in order to accelerate the overall drug release rate and regulate the triphasic release profile exhibited by the standard PLGA microparticles. For D,L-PLA (800), the burst effect was large and the IdUrd release was complete between 28 and 35 days. These results were attributed to rapid pore formation on the periphery of the microsphere in the early stages of incubation, due to hydrosolubility of the smallest oligomers (D,L-PLA (800)). In the case of D,L-PLA (1,100), drug release occurred over a six week period, the standard time course of conventional radiation therapy. The period during which the radiosensitizer was incorporated in human brain tumor cell nuclei after its entrapment in biodegradable microspheres was determined by using an organotypical tissue culture. The presence of radiosensitizer in the DNA of tumor cell nuclei was detected by immunohistochemical labelling of tumor fragments. IdUrd release from standard microspheres (7+/-0.5 weeks) was longer than from oligomer-containing batches. For D,L-PLA (800)-containing microspheres, the radiosensitizer was entirely released within 4. 5+/-0.5 weeks. The microspheres containing D,L-PLA (1,100) allowed an IdUrd release over a 5 to 6 week period. The ex vivo data were consistent with the in vitro findings in terms of release duration.