We have constructed a replication-deficient adenovirus encoding a nonphosphorylatable Thr(34)-->Ala mutant of the apoptosis inhibitor survivin (pAd-T34A) to target tumor cell viability in vitro and in vivo. Infection with pAd-T34A caused spontaneous apoptosis in cell lines of breast, cervical, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer. In contrast, pAd-T34A did not affect cell viability of proliferating normal human cells, including fibroblasts, endothelium, or smooth muscle cells. Infection of tumor cells with pAd-T34A resulted in cytochrome c release from mitochondria, cleavage of approximately 46-kDa upstream caspase-9, processing of caspase-3 to the active subunits of approximately 17 and 19 kDa, and increased caspase-3 catalytic activity. When compared with chemotherapeutic regimens, pAd-T34A was as effective as taxol and considerably more effective than adriamycin in induction of tumor cell apoptosis and enhanced taxol-induced cell death. In three xenograft breast cancer models in immunodeficient mice, pAd-T34A suppressed de novo tumor formation, inhibited by approximately 40% the growth of established tumors, and reduced intraperitoneal tumor dissemination. Tumors injected with pAd-T34A exhibited loss of proliferating cells and massive apoptosis by in situ internucleosomal DNA fragmentation. These data suggest that adenoviral targeting of the survivin pathway may provide a novel approach for selective cancer gene therapy.