Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) affects tumor growth/invasion and tumor neovascularization. A proposed HGF antagonist, NK4 (an amino-terminal kringle-domain peptide of HGF), inhibits tumor growth/invasion through the competition of HGF binding to its receptor, c-Met, and acts as an angiogenesis inhibitor. To investigate the in vivo effect of NK4 gene transfer, we constructed an adenovirus vector expressing human NK4 (AdCMV.NK4). Human lung cancer cell lines (A549 and H358) infected in vitro with AdCMV.NK4 yielded NK4 protein without a change in the cell growth rate. In contrast, direct injection of AdCMV.NK4 (1 x 10(9) pfu, twice) into established subcutaneous tumors in BALB/c nu/nu mice resulted in suppression of the tumors by 64% for A549 or by 91% for H358 compared with controls (P<0.02 or P<0.01, respectively). Counting of the tumor vessels revealed suppressed vascularity by 57% in H358 tumors when using AdCMV.NK4 (P<0.0001). Furthermore, systemic NK4 delivery by intraperitoneal injection of AdCMV.NK4 effectively suppressed both angiogenesis in the Matrigel assay (86% reduction, P<0.032), subcutaneous tumor growth in vivo (by 65% for H358, P<0.001), and hematogenous lung metastases without obvious side effects. These results indicate that NK4 elicits tumor-growth suppression in vivo through its anti-angiogenic activity and anti-HGF activity and that NK4 gene transfer can be an effective tool in the treatment of cancer.