We recently showed that estrogen induces expression of the anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-2 in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. Since estrogen-dependent breast tumours can regress following estrogen withdrawal, we hypothesized that stable Bcl-2 expression would prevent estrogen-withdrawal induced regression of MCF-7 tumours. We therefore established tumours in ovariectomized female nude mice implanted with an estrogen-release pellet using untransfected MCF-7 cells or MCF-7 cells stably transfected with a Bcl-2 cDNA sense or antisense expression vector. All tumours grew at similar rates indicating that Bcl-2 levels have no effect on tumour formation. After removal of the estrogen pellet, Bcl-2 antisense tumours and untransfected MCF-7 tumours regressed means of 49% and 52%, respectively, after estrogen pellet removal whereas Bcl-2 sense tumours were significantly stabilized. Regressing tumours displayed characteristics of apoptotic cells. These results show that Bcl-2 can prevent hormone-dependent breast tumour regression and are consistent with the notion that decreased Bcl-2 levels following estrogen withdrawal renders hormone-dependent breast tumour cells sensitive to apoptotic regression.