Systemic IL-2 is an effective treatment for low to intermediate risk mRCC patients, its efficacy is marginal in high-risk cases. Therefore, other treatment approaches are required for this population. Ninety-four high-risk patients with RCC and pulmonary metastases were treated with inhaled plus concomitant low-dose subcutaneous rhIL-2. Clinical response, survival and safety were compared with those from IL-2 given systemically at the registered dose and schedule in 103 comparable historical controls. In the rhIL-2 INH group, treatment consisted of 6.5 MIU rhIL-2 nebulized 5x/day and 3.3 MIU rhIL-2 SC once daily. The rhIL-2 SYS group received treatment which consisted of intravenous infusion of 18.0 MIU/m2/day rhIL-2 or SC injection of 3.6-18.0 MIU rhIL-2. Some patients in both groups also received IFNalpha. Mean treatment durations were 43 weeks rhIL-2 INH and 15 weeks rhIL-2 SYS. Significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival durations were observed in the rhIL-2 INH group. The probability of survival at 5 years was 21% for the rhIL-2 INH group. No patients survived 5 years in the rhIL-2 SYS group. A multivariate analysis of overall survival adjusting for differences in baseline characteristics between the two treatment groups resulted in a risk ratio of 0.43 (95% CI 0.30-0.63; P < 0.0001). The data suggested an association between the response (SD or better) and survival, especially in the rhIL-2 INH group. The inhalation regimen was well tolerated. This outcome study suggests that administration of rhIL-2 by inhalation is efficacious and safe in high-risk mRCC patients with pulmonary metastases, who have no other treatment option available.