The effect of prolonged administration of a rat C-erbB-2/neu (C-erbB-2) antisense oligonucleotide on gastric carcinogenesis induced by N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) and on the labeling and apoptotic indices of gastric cancer was examined in Wistar rats After oral treatment with MNNG for 25 weeks, the rats received intraperitoneal injections of a C-erbB-2 antisense-liposome complex or a sense-liposome complex at a dose of 50 microgram oligonucleotide/kg body weight every other day until the end of the experiment in week 52. In week 52, the incidence of gastric cancers was significantly lover in rats treated with the C-erbB-2 antisense oligonucleotide than in rats treated with the sense oligonucleotide. Administration of the C-erbB-2 antisense oligonucleotide also significantly decreased the bromodeoxyuridine-labeling index and significantly increased the apoptotic index of gastric cancers. The mean cellular fluorescence of gastric antral cells in MNNG-treated rats was positively correlated with the dose of FITC-labeled C-erbB-2 antisense oligonucleotide. Our findings indicate that the antisense oligonucleotide inhibits gastric carcinogenesis through decreased cell proliferation and increased apoptosis induction and suggest that antisense strategies may provide new treatment for gastric cancer.