Systemic effects on T-cell-mediated antitumor immunity, on expression of T-cell adhesion/homing receptors, and on the promotion of T-cell infiltration of neoplastic tissue may represent key steps for the efficacy of immunological therapies of cancer. In this study, we investigated whether these processes can be promoted by s.c. administration of low-dose (0.5 microg/kg) recombinant human interleukin-12 (rHuIL-12) to metastatic melanoma patients. A striking burst of HLA-restricted CTL precursors (CTLp) directed to autologous tumor was documented in peripheral blood by a high-efficiency limiting dilution analysis technique within a few days after rHuIL-12 injection. A similar burst in peripheral CTLp frequency was observed even when looking at response to a single tumor-derived peptide, as documented by an increase in Melan-A/Mart-1(27-35)-specific CTLp in two HLA-A*0201+ patients by limiting dilution analysis and by staining peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) with HLA-A*0201-melanoma antigen-A/melanoma antigen recognized by T cells (Melan-A/Mart)-1 tetrameric complexes. The CTLp burst was associated, in PBLs, with enhanced expression of T-cell adhesion/homing receptors CD11a/CD18, CD49d, CD44, and with increased proportion of cutaneous lymphocyte antigen (CLA)-positive T cells. This was matched by a marked increase, in serum, of soluble forms of the endothelial cell adhesion molecules E-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecules (VCAM)-1 and intercellular adhesion molecules (ICAM)-1. Infiltration of neoplastic tissue by CDS+ T cells with a memory and cytolytic phenotype was found by immunohistochemistry in eight of eight posttreatment metastatic lesions but not in five of five pretreatment metastatic lesions from three patients. Increased tumor necrosis and/or fibrosis were also found in several posttherapy lesions of two of three patients in comparison with pretherapy metastases. These results provide the first evidence that rHuIL-12 can boost the frequency of circulating antitumor CTLp in tumor patients, enhances expression of ligand receptor pairs contributing to the lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1/ICAM-1, very late antigen-4/VCAM-1, and CLA/E-selectin adhesion pathways, and promotes infiltration of neoplastic lesions by CD8+ memory T cells in a clinical setting.