It has been reported that when ovarian carcinoma cell lines are exposed to various concentrations of celecoxib, a COX-2 inhibitor, cell growth is decreased in a dose dependant manner. To examine further the effect of celecoxib, different cell densities of two carcinoma cell lines were exposed to various concentrations of celecoxib. LNCAP prostate and CAOV3 ovarian carcinoma cells were obtained from the American Type Culture Collection and maintained in Rosewell Park Memorial Institute 1640 and Dulbeceo's modified Eagle's medium, respectively. Each cell line was supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum, 2 mM L-glutamine, and antibiotic-antimycotic solution, and placed in a humidified atmosphere containing 5% CO2 at 37 degrees C. After each cell line reached a confluency of 70-80%, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000 and 10,000 cells/well were seeded in 96 well plates in 100 microl medium/per well for 24 h. Each cell line was exposed to the same concentrations of celecoxib (10-100 microM) at each cell density for 72 h. Cell growth was assessed using a tetrazolium conversion assay. A significant decrease compared to controls was observed in cell growth at each cell density of LNCAP and CAOV3 cells plated with >or=30 microM and >or=50 microM celecoxib, respectively. When the cell growth curves were compared for each cell density at the same concentration of celecoxib, a significant decrease in cell growth was observed when LNCAP cells were plated at 10,000 cells/well and exposed to 10-100 microM celecoxib. At a cell density >or= 5,000 LNCAP cells/well, the inhibitory effect of celecoxib was less. Similarly, a significant decrease in cell growth was observed in CAOV3 cells plated at 1,000 cells/well compared to other cell numbers plated at the same drug concentrations. At a cell density of > 5,000 CAOV3 cells/well, the inhibitory effect of celecoxib was significantly less compared to other cell densities at the same concentration. We observed a more sensitive decrease in cell growth in both carcinoma lines studied at a cell density of 1,000 cells/well with exposure to 10-100 microM celecoxib. Both carcinoma cell lines were less sensitive at a cell density of 5,000 cells/well. Our results suggest that the inhibitory effect of celecoxib may be affected by cell density. Therefore, careful attention must be paid to determining the appropriate cell density for cytotoxicity studies.