The aim of this study was to determine the maximum-tolerated dose, of a pre-targeting three-step (3-S) method employing 90Y-biotin in the locoregional radioimmunotherapy (RIT) of recurrent high grade glioma, and to investigate the antitumor efficacy of this new treatment. Twenty-four patients with recurrent glioma underwent second surgical debulking and implantation of a catheter into the surgical resection cavity (SRC), in order to introduce the radioimmunotherapeutic agents [biotinylated monoclonal antibody (MoAb), avidin and 90Y-biotin]. Eight patients with anaplastic astrocytoma (AA) and 16 patients with glioblastoma (GBM) were injected with biotinylated anti-tenascin MoAb (2 mg), then with avidin (10 mg; 24 h later) and finally 90Y-biotin (18 h later). Each patient received two of these treatments 8-10 weeks apart. The injected activity ranged from 0.555 to 1.110 GBq (15-30 mCi). Dosage was escalated by 0.185 GBq (5 mCi) in four consecutive groups. The treatment was well tolerated without acute side effects up to 0.740 GBq (20 mCi). The maximum tolerated activity was 1.110 GBq (30 mCi) limited by neurological toxicity. None of the patients developed hematologic toxicity. In three patients infection occurred around the catheter. The average absorbed dose to the normal brain was minimal compared with that received at the SRC interface. At first control (after 2 months), partial (PR) and minor (MR) responses were observed in three GBM (1 PR; 2 MR) and three AA patients (1 PR; 2 MR) with an overall objective response rate of 25%. Stable disease (SD) was achieved in seven GBM and five AA patients (50%). There was disease progression in six GBM patients (25%), but in none of the AA patients. At the dosage of 0.7-0.9 GBq per cycle, locoregional 3-S-RIT was safe and produced an objective response in 25% of patients. Based on these encouraging results, phase II studies employing 3-S-RIT soon after first debulking are justified.