LS 4477 and LS 4559, two of a series of N-acyl-aminoalkyl phenyl ethers, are rationally designed compounds based on the tubulin binder estramustine. This study investigated their mechanism of action and compared their effectiveness in relation to estramustine in vitro against a panel of human and murine cell lines and in vivo against two murine colon tumour models (MAC). At biologically relevant concentrations, LS 4477 and LS 4559 caused a 59.9 and 56% reduction in tubulin assembly, respectively, compared with a 28.4% reduction in tubulin assembly by estramustine. The analogues were approximately 100 times more potent in chemosensitivity tests in vitro than the parent compound. Both analogues were orally active against the MAC 15A murine tumour model, to a greater extent than estramustine, producing significant growth delays (P<0.01). Significant activity was also shown against the slower growing MAC 26 tumour for LS 4577 (the soluble pro-drug of LS 4559). The results presented in this study suggest these compounds warrant further development with a view to assessing their clinical activity.