The effect of monoterpene perillyl alcohol (POH) on cell growth, cell cycle progression, and expression of cell cycle-regulatory proteins in estrogen receptor (ER)-positive (KPL-1 and MCF-7) and ER-negative (MKL-F and MDA-MB-231) human breast cancer cell lines was examined. POH inhibited cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner in all cell lines tested. POH at a dose of 500 micro M had a cytostatic effect, in which growth inhibition was due to accumulation of cells in G1-phase. Cell cycle progression was preceded by a decrease in G1 cyclins (cyclin D1 and E), followed by an increase in p21(Cip1/Waf1) and a decrease in proliferating cell nuclear antigen level. Levels of p53 and cyclin A were unchanged. POH at a dose of 75 mg/kg administered intraperitoneally three times a week throughout the entire 6-week experimental period suppressed orthotopically transplanted KPL-1 tumor cell growth and regional lymph node metastasis in a nude mouse system. POH inhibited both ER-positive and -negative human breast cancer cell growth in vitro, and suppressed growth and metastasis in vivo.