Present studies indicate that alpha-tocopherol enhances the efficacy of cisplatin as demonstrated by inoculation of Dalton's lymphoma cells incubated with either cisplatin (5 or 10 µg/ml) alone or cisplatin + alpha-tocopherol (25 or 50 µg/ml) into C3H/He mice. Tumour cells (3 x 10(6) cells/mouse) incubated with cisplatin grow slowly in syngeneic mice as indicated by the late appearance of tumour. However, mice failed to develop tumour when inoculated with tumour cells incubated with cisplatin + alpha-tocopherol. When the animals were challenged with tumour cells (3 x 10(6) cells/mouse) on the 15th day after the initial inoculation, 30-50% survived more than 60 days, with 10% tumour-free survivors being observed in some groups. Antitumour activity was higher in mice receiving lymphoma cells (3 x 10(6) cells/mouse) preincubated with cisplatin + alpha-tocopherol compared to cisplatin alone. Tumour-bearing mice receiving cisplatin in combination with different concentrations of alpha-tocopherol exhibited significantly higher (P<0.001) intratumour platinum content (123-306%) but without any change in the kidney platinum content as compared to those receiving cisplatin (5 or 10 µg/ml) alone. Enhancement of cisplatin-induced tumour growth inhibition is probably due to the modulation of tumour cell membrane permeability by alpha-tocopherol. alpha-Tocopherol might increase the influx of cisplatin into tumour cells, causing the DNA repair machinery to be less efficient due to increased efficiency of adduct formation in the DNA molecule. This effect of alpha-tocopherol can render cisplatin more effective as an antitumour agent.