PURPOSE: To elucidate the effects of pentoxifylline and diltiazem on the late response of the salivary glands of the rat after irradiation. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Sixteen Sprague-Dawley rats were divided into 4 groups : (a) irradiation alone (b) irradiation with pentixifylline (PTX) (c) irradiation with diltiazem (DTZ) (d) irradiation with both PTX and DTZ. Irradiation was given in a single fraction of 16 Gy using 4 MV photon energy through an anterior port encompassing the left side of the salivary gland leaving the right side of salivary gland as a contol. PTX, 20 mg/kg and/or DTZ, 50 mg/kg were infused intraperitoneally before irradiation. Two rats from each group were sacrificed on the 10th week and the rest was sacrificed on the 16th week after irradiation. Histopathologic examinations were undertaken for each section and the proportion of vacuolated cells out of the total number of cells under light microscopic fields was calculated. The statistical significance in the difference of the proportion of the vacuolated cells among the experimental groups was evaluated by a x2-test. RESULTS: Irradiated salivary glands of the 10th week group revealed markedly increased number of vacuolated cells compared to those of unirradiated control. The proportion of vacuolated cells was significantly reduced in both the PTX group (p value=0.001) and the combined PTX and DTX group compared to those of irradiation alone group. The DTZ alone group did not reveal the significant reduction of vacuolated cells compared to those of irradiation alone group (p value, >0.05). The 16th week groups revealed similar findings to those of the 10th week group, but the degree of chronic inflammatory cell infiltrates and interstitial fibrosis was increased and the number of acinar cells was reduced compared to those of the 10th week group. CONCLUSIONS: PTX significantly reduced the late radiation response of salivary glands, but DTZ did not reduce the same degree as PTX did. Taking the positive results of this study into consideration, it seems reasonable to apply PTX into the clinical trial for the head and neck irradiation to reduce the late radiation sequelae of salivary glands in the near future. At the same time the further experiment to clarify the subcellular mechanisms involved in PTX should be preceded.