Alteration of the wild-type (wt) p53 gene by mutation, deletion or re-arrangement is a major factor in the development of human colon cancer. Recent studies have demonstrated that p53 might be an essential component of the apoptotic pathway triggered by DNA-damaging stimuli such as chemotherapeutic agents and ionizing radiation. We examined the anti-tumor effects of adenovirus-mediated wt-p53 gene transfer in combination with a chemotherapeutic drug on the human colon cancer cell line WiDr, which is homozygous for a mutation in the p53 gene. Treatment with the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin following infection with a replication-deficient, recombinant adenoviral vector expressing wt-p53 (termed AdCMVp53) significantly suppressed the growth of WiDr cells compared to single treatments alone. To evaluate the in vivo efficacy of AdCMVp53 and cisplatin given sequentially, WiDr cells were inoculated s.c. in nu/nu mice. After 3 days, AdCMVp53 was injected s.c. into the area where tumor cells were implanted, followed by i.p. administration of cisplatin. Analysis of initial growth inhibition at 21 days demonstrated a profound therapeutic cooperativity, though administration of either AdCMVp53 or cisplatin alone was followed only by a slowing of growth. Our results suggest that gene therapy using wt-p53-expressing adenovirus in combination with a chemotherapeutic DNA-damaging drug could be a useful strategy for treating human colon cancer.