In order to characterize human colorectal cancer, much attention has been paid to enzyme studies. However, little is known about the correlation between the levels of key enzymes of purine nucleotide pathway and some clinical and biological indicators of tumor invasiveness and aggressiveness. Adenosine deaminase (ADA) and 5'-nucleotidase (5'-NT) were measured in cancerous and cancer-free adjacent large bowel tissues from 38 patients with colorectal carcinoma. We have analyzed the relationship between the enzyme levels and some clinical and pathological parameters. The enzymes' activities were markedly higher in primary tumors than in corresponding normal mucosae. The ADA level in tumor tissue was significantly correlated with lymph node metastasis, histologic type, tumor location, and patient's age, whereas the 5'-NT level showed a significant correlation with tumor grade and tumor location. ADA activity in tumor tissues was significantly higher in patients whose clinical course remained stable than in those with recurrent diseases. The purine metabolism and salvage pathway activity of purine nucleotides are accelerated in the cancerous human colorectal tissue. Although our findings suggest that these enzymes' activities are most likely related to the same histomorphological architecture of the tumor, the authors believe that long-term follow-up studies are needed to evaluate the prognostic value of purine enzymes for colorectal cancer.