Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) are often essential for the maintenance of the malignant phenotype, and in lung cancer the IGF-I receptor (IGF-Ir) is often expressed at high levels. Stable transfection of antisense plasmids expressing the first 300 bp of the IGF-Ir reduces the tumorigenicity of a variety of tumor cell lines and has been reported to induce systemic antitumor effects on established, non-gene-modified tumors in animal model systems. We have constructed an adenovirus expressing an antisense IGF-Ir (Ad-IGF-Ir/as) in an attempt to develop these observations into a clinical therapeutic approach. A single transduction by Ad-IGF-Ir/as (at a multiplicity of infection of 10:1) decreased the IGF-Ir number by about 50% in human lung cancer cell lines NCI H460 and SCC5, as measured by an 125I-labeled IGF-I competitive binding assay. After the transduction of these human lung cancer cell lines by Ad-IGF-Ir/as, the soft agar clonogenicity was reduced by 84%. The i.p. treatment of nude mice bearing established i.p. NCI H460 cells resulted in prolonged survival compared to that of nude mice treated with a reporter virus. These results suggest that Ad-IGF-Ir/as has a therapeutic effect on established human lung cancer xenografts and may represent an effective and practical cancer gene therapy strategy.