7-Oxo-7H-naphtho[1,2,3-de]quinoline-11-carboxamides and analogues were prepared and evaluated for in vitro and in vivo antitumor activity. Chromophore variations included 'deaza' (7-oxo-7H-benz[de]anthracene) and 'diaza' (7-oxo-7H-benzo[e]perimidine) analogues, and side chain variations included chiral alpha-methyl compounds. The naphthoquinolines were the most cytotoxic, with IC(50) values of 5-20 nM, and showed the strongest DNA binding, with high selectivity for G-C rich DNA. The chiral alpha-methyl analogues were 10-20-fold more cytotoxic than the parent des-methyl compound. Both enantiomers provided substantial growth delays against s.c. colon 38 tumors in mice, with the R-enantiomer more active than the S (tumor growth delays of >35 and 12 days, respectively).