The effect of oxidative stress induced by the ascorbate/menadione-redox association was examined in K562 cells, a human erythromyeloid leukaemia cell line. Our results show that ascorbate enhances menadione redox cycling, leading to the formation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (as shown by dihydrorhodamine 123 oxidation). The incubation of cells in the presence of both ascorbate/menadione and aminotriazole, a catalase inhibitor, resulted in a strong decrease of cell survival, reinforcing the role of H(2)O(2) as the main oxidizing agent killing K562 cells. This cell death was not caspase-3-dependent. Indeed, neither procaspase-3 and PARP were processed and only a weak cytochrome c release was observed. Moreover, we observed only 23% of cells with depolarized mitochondria. In ascorbate/menadione-treated cells, DNA fragmentation was observed without any sign of chromatin condensation (DAPI and TUNEL tests). The cell demise by ascorbate/menadione is consistent with a necrosis-like cell death confirmed by both cytometric profile of annexin-V/propidium iodide labeled cells and by light microscopy examination. Finally, we showed that a single i.p. administration of the association of ascorbate and menadione is able to inhibit the growth of K562 cells by about 60% (in both tumour size and volume) in an immune-deficient mice model. Taken together, these results reinforced our previous claims about a potential application of the ascorbate/menadione association in cancer therapy.