Overexpression of proapoptotic Bax favors death in cells resistant to ionizing radiation. We hypothesized that expression of Bax via adenoviral-mediated gene delivery could sensitize radiation-refractory cells to radiotherapy. An inducible Bax recombinant adenovirus (Ad/Bax) had been generated using the Cre/Ioxp system. Human ovarian cancer cell lines and primary, patient-derived cancer cells from ascites were irradiated and infected with the Ad/ Bax and an expression-inducing vector, Ad/Cre. Cell death was evaluated by crystal violet staining, fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis of Annexin V, and colony formation assay (cell lines only). To further characterize the mechanism of death, cell morphology was examined by nuclear staining with Hoechst 33258. Lastly, to evaluate the capacity of the combined treatment to inhibit tumor growth, mice were injected subcutaneously with ovarian cancer cells exposed to Bax, radiation therapy (RT), or both, and tumor size was measured periodically. Infection of the cancer cell lines and primary cells with both Ad/Bax and Ad/Cre significantly enhanced sensitivity to ionizing radiation, achieving high levels of cell killing in short-term assays. In addition, the combination of Bax and radiotherapy reduced the survival fraction of cell lines 2 logs in standard colony-forming assays. Investigation into the involved mechanism suggests that Bax-mediated radiosensitization occurs through both apoptosis and necrosis pathways. Further, mice subcutaneously injected with ovarian tumor cells previously treated with radiation, or with radiation and irrelevant viruses, consistently developed tumor nodules. In addition, approximately 80% of injections were followed by tumor formation after treatment with Ad/Bax and Ad/Cre alone. In contrast, tumor formation was completely inhibited after combined treatment with Ad/Bax and Ad/Cre and radiation. Augmentation of the effect of radiotherapy on human ovarian cancer cells and primary cancer cells from patients via a recombinant adenovirus encoding Bax is feasible. © 2000 American Society for Gene Therapy.