Four palladium(II) and platinum(II) saccharinate (sac) complexes with 2-(hydroxymethyl) pyridine (2-hmpy) and 2-(2-hydroxyethyl) pyridine (2-hepy), namely trans-[Pd(2-hmpy)(2)(sac)(2)]center dot H2O (1), trans-[Pt(2-hmpy)(2)(sac)(2)]center dot 3H(2)O (2), trans-[Pd(2-hepy)(2)(sac)(2)] (3) and trans-[Pt(2-hepy)(2)(sac)(2)] (4), have been synthesized and characterized by elemental analysis, UV-vis, IR and NMR. Single crystal X-ray analysis reveals that the metal(II) ions in each complex are coordinated by two sac and two 2-hmpy or 2-hepy ligands with a trans arrangement. Anticancer effects of 1-4 were tested against four different cancer cell lines (A549 and PC3 for lung cancer, C6 for glioblastoma, and Hep3B for liver cancer). Cytotoxicity was first screened by the MTT assay and the results were further confirmed by the ATP assay. The mode of cell death was determined by both histological and biochemical methods. Among the metal complexes, complex 2 resulted in relatively stronger anti-growth effect in a dose-dependent manner (3.13-200 mu M), compared to the others, by inducing apoptosis. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.