We previously showed that NCX 4040 inhibits in vitro and in vivo tumor growth and induces apoptosis in human colon cancer cell lines. On the basis of these results, NCX 4040 antitumor activity in combination with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or oxaliplatin was evaluated in vitro and in vivo in human colon cancer models. The cytotoxicity of different NCX 4040 and 5-FU or oxaliplatin combination schemes was evaluated on a panel of colon cancer lines (LoVo, LoVo Dx, WiDr, and LRWZ) by the sulforhodamine B assay, and apoptosis was assessed by flow cytometry. NCX 4040 and 5-FU combination was always additive in vitro regardless of the scheme used. Sequential NCX 4040-->oxaliplatin treatment produced a strong synergism in three cell lines, with a ratio index ranging from 3.7 to 4. The synergistic effect was accompanied by apoptosis induction (up to 40%). In the in vivo experiments, xenografted mice were treated with the sequential combination of NCX 4040 and oxaliplatin, and apoptosis was evaluated immunohistochemically in excised tumors. Furthermore, in WiDr xenografts, this sequence caused a significantly higher reduction ( approximately 60%) in tumor growth compared with single-drug treatments and produced extensive apoptotic cell death (15.3%), significantly higher (P < 0.01) than that observed in untreated tumors (2.7%) or in tumors treated with NCX 4040 (5.1%) or oxaliplatin (5.7%) alone. These data show that NCX 4040 sensitizes colon cancer cell lines to the effect of antitumor drugs and suggests that their combination could be useful for the clinical management of colon cancer.