Angiopoietin-1 is an important regulator of endothelial cell survival. Angiopoietin-1 also reduces vascular permeability mediated by vascular endothelial growth factor. The effects of angiopoietin-1 on tumour growth and angiogenesis are controversial. We hypothesised that angiopoietin-1 would decrease tumour growth and ascites formation in peritoneal carcinomatosis. Human colon cancer cells (KM12L4) were transfected with vector (pcDNA) alone (control) or vector containing angiopoietin-1 and injected into the peritoneal cavities of mice. After 30 days, the following parameters were measured: number of peritoneal nodules, ascites volume, and diameter of the largest tumour. Effects of angiopoietin-1 on vascular permeability were investigated using an intradermal Miles assay with conditioned media from transfected cells. Seven of the nine mice in the pcDNA group developed ascites (1.3+/-0.5 ml (mean+/-s.e.m.)), whereas no ascites was detectable in the angiopoietin-1 group (0 out of 10) (P<0.01). Number of peritoneal metastases (P<0.05), tumour volume, (P<0.05), vessel counts (P<0.01), and tumour cell proliferation (P<0.01) were significantly reduced in angiopoietin-1-expressing tumours. Conditioned medium from angiopoietin-1-transfected cells decreased vascular permeability more than did conditioned medium from control cells (P<0.05). Our results suggest that angiopoietin-1 is an important mediator of angiogenesis and vascular permeability and thus could theoretically serve as an anti-neoplastic agent for patients with carcinomatosis from colorectal cancer.