Previous studies have demonstrated that human lung tumor cell lines express interleukin 4 (IL-4) receptors, and IL-4 can mediate modest to moderate antiproliferative activity in vitro and in vivo in animal models of human lung tumors. On the basis of these studies, IL-4 was tested in clinical trials; however, it showed little antitumor activity in lung cancer patients. In the present study, we examined the expression of IL-4 receptors (IL-4Rs) in lung tumor samples and normal lung tissues and tested whether an IL-4R targeted agent will have better antitumor activity in vitro and in vivo compared with IL-4. IL-4R expression was tested by immunohistochemistry in 54 lung tumor samples and normal lung tissues in a tissue array, by reverse-transcription PCR and Northern blot analyses in lung tumor cell lines. Cytotoxic activity of IL-4 cytotoxin [IL-4(38-37)-PE38KDEL], composed of a circular permuted IL-4 and a mutated form of Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE38KDEL) was tested by protein synthesis inhibition and clonogenic assays in seven lung tumor cell lines. Antitumor activity of IL-4 cytotoxin was tested in vitro and in immunodeficient animal models of human lung tumors. We observed that IL-4Rs are expressed at higher levels in situ in lung tumor samples compared with normal lung tissues and IL-4 cytotoxin is highly and specifically cytotoxic to lung tumor cell lines in vitro. Intratumoral and i.p. administration of IL-4 cytotoxin to immunodeficient mice with s.c. established human lung H358 non-small cell lung cancer tumors mediated considerable antitumor activity in a dose-dependent manner with the higher dose producing durable complete responses. On the other hand, H460 non-small cell lung cancer tumors expressing low levels of IL-4R did not respond to IL-4 cytotoxin therapy. Because IL-4 cytotoxin mediates its antitumor activity through IL-4R, and a variety of lung tumors expressed high levels of IL-4R, we propose testing the safety of this agent in patients with lung cancer.