Clinical studies were performed with a recombinant mutant adenovirus with an E1B 55-kDa deletion, dl1520, to assess its toxicity and efficacy in patients with irresectable primary and secondary liver tumors. A phase I study showed that dl1520 was well tolerated when administered directly intratumorally, intraarterially, or intravenously up to a dose of 3 x 10(11) PFU. Ultrastructural examination of tissue showed the presence of adenovirus in cell cytoplasm around the nucleus and revealed two dissimilar end points of cell death after virus infection: a preapoptotic sequence and necrosis. A phase II study showed that the combination of dl1520 and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), when infused into the hepatic artery, was well tolerated. Further improvement in the recombinant vector design will be needed in order to achieve better clinical response.