Tyrosinase-dependent activation of hydroxybenzenes forms reactive compounds, including catechols and o-quinones, and some of which show antitumor activity against pigmented melanomas. Since VP-16 is a phenoxy-containing antitumor drug, forms free radicals and reactive o-quinones during peroxidative activation, we evaluated the cytotoxicity of VP-16 to both tyrosinase-containing and non-tyrosinase-containing tumor cells. Our results show that VP-16 is significantly more cytotoxic to B-16/F-10 melanoma cells than human MCF-7 breast tumor cells. Phenylthiocarbamide, an inhibitor of tyrosinase activity, selectively decreased VP-16 toxicity only in melanoma cells. Furthermore, VP-16 was readily activated to its phenoxy free radical intermediate by purified tyrosinase, indicating tyrosinase may play a role in VP-16 toxicity in pigmented melanomas.