Recently, we developed a series of cytotoxic peptide conjugates containing 14-O-glutaryl esters of doxorubicin (DOX) or 2-pyrrolino-DOX (AN-201). Serum carboxylesterase enzymes (CE) can partially hydrolyze these conjugates in the circulation, releasing the cytotoxic radical, before the targeting is complete. CE activity in serum of nude mice is about 10 times higher than in human serum. Thus, we found that the t(1/2) of AN-152, an analog of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH) containing DOX, at 0.3 mg/ml is 19. 49 +/- 0.74 min in mouse serum and 126.06 +/- 3.03 min in human serum in vitro. The addition of a CE inhibitor, diisopropyl fluorophosphate (DFP), to mouse serum in vitro significantly (P < 0. 01) prolongs the t(1/2) of AN-152 to 69.63 +/- 4.44 min. When DFP is used in vivo, 400 nmol/kg cytotoxic somatostatin analog AN-238 containing AN-201 is well tolerated by mice, whereas all animals die after the same dose without DFP. In contrast, DFP has no effect on the tolerance of AN-201. A better tolerance to AN-238 after DFP treatment is due to the selective uptake of AN-238 by somatostatin receptor-positive tissues. Our results demonstrate that the suppression of the CE activity in nude mice greatly decreases the toxicity of cytotoxic hybrids containing 2-pyrrolino-DOX 14-O-hemiglutarate and brings this animal model closer to the conditions that exist in humans. The use of DFP together with these peptide conjugates in nude mice permits a better understanding of their mechanism of action and improves the clinical predictability of the oncological and toxicological results.