DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification of the mammalian genome that occurs predominantly at cytosine residues of the CpG dinucleotide. Following formaldehyde activation, pixantrone alkylates DNA and particularly favours the CpG motif. Aberrations in CpG methylation patterns are a feature of most cancer types, a characteristic that may determine their susceptibility to specific drug treatments. Given their common target, DNA methylation may modulate the DNA damage induced by formaldehyde-activated pixantrone. In vitro transcription, mass spectrometry and oligonucleotide band shift assays were utilized to establish that pixantrone-DNA adduct formation was consistently enhanced 2-5-fold at discrete methylated CpG doublets. The methylation-mediated enhancement was exquisitely sensitive to the position of the methyl substituent since methylation at neighboring cytosine residues failed to confer an increase in pixantrone-DNA alkylation. Covalent modification of DNA by formaldehyde-activated doxorubicin, but not cisplatin, was augmented by neighbouring CpG methylation, indicating that modulation of binding by CpG methylation is not a general feature of all alkylators. HCT116 colon cancer cells vastly deficient in CpG methylation were 12- and 10-fold more resistant to pixantrone and doxorubicin relative to the wild-type line, suggesting that these drugs may selectively recognize the aberrant CpG methylation profiles characteristic of most tumour types.