ONYX-015 is an E1B-deleted adenovirus that replicates in and causes lysis of p53-deficient cancer cells selectively. To study the efficiency of intratumoral (i.t.) spread by ONYX-015, we infected specific fractions of tumor cells (two p53-deficient tumor lines and one p53 functional line) in vitro before subcutaneous inoculation into nude mice. Infection of as few as 5% of p53- tumor cells prevented tumor development in all cases; infection of 1% of p53- tumor cells resulted in significant growth inhibition but did not prevent tumor formation. In contrast, infection with ONYX-015 had no significant effect on p53+ tumor formation. These data suggested that replication-dependent tumor cell lysis and spread was occurring, but that tumor destruction might be improved by increasing i.t. virus distribution. Two treatment parameters were then varied to determine whether virus distribution, and consequently efficacy, could be improved. Divided i.t. injections of virus were more efficacious than a single injection of the same total dose. Likewise, increasing the volume of the viral suspension for i.t. injection allowed better distribution within the tumor mass and increased efficacy. These results have implications for the treatment of cancer patients with viral agents.