Phase partition techniques have been used to measure the binding of the antitumor drugs adriamycin (NSC-123127) and daunorubicin (NSC-82151) to various DNAs. These methods provide reliable equilibrium binding data at the low levels of drug binding that may be expected in vivo. Both adriamycin and daunorubicin exhibit positive cooperativity (and/or allosterism) in their equilibrium binding to DNA as indicated by the positive slope in the initial region of the binding isotherms (Scatchard plots) under conditions simulating physiological ionic strengths. The cooperative binding (i.e., the appearance of initial positive curvature in the binding isotherms) is dependent upon the ionic strength, which suggests a role for DNA flexibility in the cooperative binding process. An analysis of the slope of the initial portion of the binding isotherms for the interaction of adriamycin with synthetic deoxypolynucleotides shows that the degree of cooperative binding decreases in the order poly(dGdT)·poly-(dAdC) ≽ poly(dAdT)·poly(dAdT) > poly(dGdC)·poly-(dGdC). Marky and Breslauer [Marky, L. A., & Breslauer, K. J. (1982) Biopolymers 21, 2185–2194] found that the average base stacking enthalpies of these synthetic polynucleotides were in the same order, which also suggests that the properties of the DNA influence the cooperative binding (and/or allosteric effects). Adriamycin binds with a higher degree of cooperativity than daunorubicin (0.1 M NaCl); although this correlates with the effectiveness of the drugs as antitumor agents, the exact relationship between the observation of cooperative binding and pharmacological activity is yet to be determined. © 1983, American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.