BACKGROUND Mepacrine is an antiproliferative agent, characterised by an aliphatic chain similar to that of natural polyamines whose activation is closely associated with cell proliferation and may lead to malignant transformation and neurodegenerative diseases. This study aims to investigate a possible antagonism between mepacrine and polyamines in tumour proliferation. MATERIALS AND METHODS MCF-7 and Vero cells were cultured in Eagle's minimum essential medium and then subjected to graded concentrations of putrescine, spermine and spermidine alone and in combination with mepacrine. Methyl thiazole tetrazolium test and Western-blotting were performed. RESULTS Putrescine and spermidine at 0.5 mg/l significantly stimulated cell growth, whereas mepacrine treatment confirmed the enhanced p21 expression previously reported by a recent study and growth inhibition. When used in combination, mepacrine antagonized MCF-7 growth induced by polyamines. CONCLUSION Our results suggest that mepacrine may represent a choice in the treatment of tumours induced by the modified concentration of polyamines.