Adriamycin is a potent chemotherapeutic agent used in the treatment of human neoplastic diseases. A major side effect limiting the use of this drug is its toxic effect on the heart. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the cardiotoxicity of Adriamycin. However, the most plausible hypothesis seems to be the reduction of Adriamycin and free radical production, which induces lipid peroxidation and oxidative damages in the heart. We have thus undertaken this preliminary study to investigate Adriamycin-induced lipid peroxidation by the measurement of plasma thiobarbituric acid reactant materials and antioxidant systems, namely glutathione content, glutathione peroxidase activity, and vitamin and trace element status, in patients with cancer before and after chemotherapy, including Adriamycin. The concentration of thiobarbituric acid reactant materials in plasma of patients with cancer was higher than in controls and was further increased after chemotherapy. Blood glutathione and plasma glutathione peroxidase activity, as well as plasma zinc and selenium in patients with cancer, were decreased, but not further modified by chemotherapy. However, only zinc and selenium levels reached a significant level. In contrast, plasma vitamin E and beta-carotene levels were not significantly increased in patients with cancer. Finally, plasma vitamin A and copper levels were not modified either in patients with cancer or by chemotherapy.