To evaluate the potential of defective herpes simplex virus (HSV) amplicon vectors as in vivo cytokine gene transfer vehicles for active immunotherapy, we generated a defective HSV vector that encodes the murine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) gene, using a replication-defective HSV as helper virus. A variety of murine tumor cell lines were efficiently infected in vitro with the defective GM-CSF vector (dvGM), and this led to the synthesis and secretion of murine GM-CSF. In an established bilateral subcutaneous tumor model with Harding-Passey murine melanoma, unilateral intratumoral inoculation of dvGM significantly inhibited tumor growth of both the inoculated and noninoculated contralateral tumors. This tumor inhibition was dose-dependent and resulted in increased survival of the dvGM-treated mice. Inoculation of a lacZ-expressing defective vector had no effect on tumor growth. We conclude that this defective HSV vector system offers an effective method for cytokine gene delivery in vivo and that GM-CSF expression in tumors has antitumor activity.