One of the approaches in chemoprevention to prevent or delay the progression of precancerous lesions, is to apply chemopreventive agents that can potentially block angiogenesis. A quantitative in vivo angiogenesis inhibition assay was developed to test the efficacy of twelve chemopreventive agents that represent different chemical classes and multiple biological activities, using the chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) model and an oncogene-transfected angiogenic cell line (6 Ti ras/SV myc # 4). These tumorigenic cells held by a primary agarose pellet, were placed alone or with a secondary pellet incorporating five concentrations of the test agent, on an exposed CAM of 7-day-old chick embryo for 72 hours in a humidified chamber at 35 degrees C. The cell-induced angiogenic blood vessels, including the microvessels radiating from the cell pellet focal area, were scored using a computerized custom image analysis system. The results show that nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS); aspirin, sulindac, sulindac sulfide and sulindac sulfone, were effective inhibitors of cell-induced angiogenesis (23-66%). Aspirin displayed a dose-dependent response with the highest inhibition at 300 microM and an EC50 (the effective molar concentration that inhibits angiogenesis by 50%) of 26 microM. Sulindac sulfone was more effective than sulindac with an EC50 of 5 microM versus 85 microM. However, sulindac sulfide showed an intermediate response with an EC50 of 41 microM. The retinoids; all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA), 9-cis-retinoic acid (9-cis-RA), and 13-cis-retinoic acid (13-cis-RA) were also highly effective inhibitors of cell-mediated CAM-angiogenesis. 13-cis-RA with an EC50 of 3.6 nM, has been the most efficacious test agent. > 400-fold more effective than 9-cis-RA (1.5 microM). ATRA exhibited an intermediate response between 9-cis-RA and 13-cis-RA with an EC50 of 0.3 microM, and was 100-fold more efficacious than 9-cis-RA. However, the synthetic retinoid, N-(4-hydroxyphenyl) retinamide (4-HPR), was not an effective inhibitor of CAM angiogenesis. Thalidomide, a compound with multiple biological activities, exhibited dose-dependent inhibition ranging from 10-1000 microM with an EC50 of 19 microM. Other agents that exhibited dose-dependent inhibition included Bowman-Birk inhibitor (BBI), EC50: 10 microg/ml, tamoxifen, EC50, 0.05 microM and difluoromethyl omithine (DFMO), with an EC50 of 13 microM. These results suggest that tumor-associated angiogenesis can be modulated by non-toxic concentrations of chemopreventive agents representing multiple biological activities and multiple targets.