The thiol N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a promising cancer chemopreventive agent which acts through a variety of mechanisms, including its nucleophilic and antioxidant properties. We have recently shown that NAC inhibits type-IV collagenase activity as well as invasion, tumor take and metastasis of malignant cells in mice. NAC is also known to attenuate the cardiotoxicity of the cytostatic drug doxorubicin (DOX, Adriamycin). The present study was designed to evaluate whether the combination of NAC and DOX treatments in mice injected with cancer cells could affect their tumorigenic and metastatic properties. Six separate experiments were carried out, using a total of 291 adult female mice. In experimental metastasis assays, in which B16-F10 melanoma cells were injected i.v. into (CD-1)BR nude mice, DOX significantly reduced the number of lung metastases when administered i.v. at a dose of 10 mg/kg body weight, 3 days after the i.v. injection of cancer cells. NAC inhibited lung metastases when added to the medium of cancer cells before their i.v. injection. The combined treatment with DOX and NAC, under various experimental conditions, was highly effective, showing a synergistic reduction in the number of mestastases. In tumorigenicity and spontaneous metastasis assays, in which B16-BL6 melanoma cells were injected s.c. into the footpad of C57BL/6 mice, DOX decreased the number of lung metastases when given i.p. at 2 mg/kg body weight. Oral NAC exerted significant protective effects, and considerably prolonged survival of mice. The combined treatment with DOX and NAC again showed synergistic effects on the frequency and weight of primary tumors and local recurrences, and completely prevented the formation of lung metastases in the experiment in which these end-points were evaluated at fixed times. While injection of DOX 7 days after implantation of cancer cells failed to improve the cancer-protective effects of NAC, its injection after I day resulted in a striking inhibition of lung metastases. These findings demonstrate an evident synergism between DOX (given parenterally) and NAC (given with drinking water) in preventing tumorigenicity and metastases. The indications of these animal studies warrant further evaluation in clinical trials.