Pharmacogenetic analysis of polymorphisms in drug metabolizing enzymes is currently generating considerable interest as a means of individualizing patient therapy. Recent studies have suggested that patients that are homozygous for a polymorphic variant (a C to T transition at position 609 of the cDNA sequence) of the enzyme NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase (NQO1) may be resistant to Mitomycin C (MMC). Genotyping of a panel of 54 human tumor xenografts by polymerase chain reaction restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP), classified tumors as wild type (40/54), heterozygotes (11/54), and homozygous mutants (3/54). Previously, 37 of these tumors had been characterized in terms of their response to MMC in vivo, and in this study, a further nine tumor xenografts have been characterized in terms of their response to MMC. No correlation could be found between the NQO1 polymorphic status of xenografts and their response to MMC in vivo. In terms of genotype/phenotype relationships, NQO1 activity in tumors genotyped as wild type, heterozygotes, and homozygous mutants were 311.1 +/- 421.9 (N = 40), 76.9 +/- 109.5 (N = 11), and 0.2 +/- 0.17 (N = 3) nmol/min/mg, respectively. Genotyping of patients may provide a useful initial step in identifying patients who are unlikely to benefit from quinone-based chemotherapy. In the case of MMC, however, the work presented here demonstrates that genotyping of individuals with respect to NQO1 is unlikely to be beneficial in terms of predicting tumor responses to MMC.