Bacterial magnetosomes (BMs) are commonly used as vehicles for certain enzymes, nucleic acids and antibodies, although they have never been considered drug carriers. To evaluate the clinical potential of BMs extracted from Magnetospirillum gryphiswaldense in cancer therapy, doxorubicin (DOX) was loaded onto the purified BMs at a ratio of 0.87 ± 0.08 mg/mg using glutaraldehyde. The DOX-coupled BMs (DBMs) and BMs exhibited uniform sizes and morphology evaluated by TEM. The diameters of DBMs and BMs obtained by AFM were 71.02 ± 6.73 and 34.93 ± 8.24 nm, respectively. The DBMs released DOX slowly into serum and maintained at least 80% stability following 48 h of incubation. In vitro cytotoxic tests showed that the DBMs were cytotoxic to HL60 and EMT-6 cells, manifested as inhibition of cell proliferation and suppression in c-myc expression, consistent with DOX. These observations depicted in vitro antitumor property of DBMs similar to DOX. The approach of coupling DOX to magnetosomes may have clinical potential in anti-tumor drug delivery. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008;101: 1313–1320. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.