To ascertain whether concomitant expression of Escherichia coli deaminase (CD) and herpes simplex virus type-1 thymidine kinase (HSV-1 TK) could mediate greater levels of cytotoxicity beyond that observed with either suicide gene alone, 9L gliosarcoma cells were transduced with a retrovirus encoding a CD/HSV-1 TK fusion gene. The resultant CD/HSV-1 TK fusion protein (CDglyTK) was found to be bifunctional via CD and HSV-1 TK enzymatic assays, and conferred upon cells prodrug sensitivities equivalent to or better than that observed for each enzyme independently (ganciclovir [GCV] and bromovinyldeoxyuridine [BVdU] for HSV-1 TK and 5-fluorocytosine [5-FC] for CD). Simultaneous treatment of CDglyTK-expressing cells with prodrugs specific for HSV-1 TK and CD (GCV/5-FC or BVdU/5-FC) resulted in slight synergistic toxicity, two- to three-fold greater than that expected if the cytotoxic effects of each prodrug were purely additive. More importantly, co-treatment with HSV-1 TK- and CD-specific prodrugs was found to increase greatly the radiosensitivity of CDglyTK-expressing cells. Sensitivity enhancement ratios of 2.44 (GCV/5-FC) and 3.90 (BVdU/5-FC) were achieved. The results suggest that double suicide gene therapy, using a bifunctional CD/HSV-1 TK fusion gene, coupled with radiotherapy may provide a highly efficient means of selectively treating cancer.