A prospective randomized trial of preoperative intratumoral therapy with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) was conducted in non-small cell lung cancer patients. Eighty-eight patients (48 BCG-treated and 40 control subjects) were entered into the study; three control subjects were removed from data analysis because histology revealed pathology other than non-small cell lung cancer. There were no differences between BCG-treated and control patients in sex, age, cigarettes smoked per day, pack-years of cigarette smoking, white blood cell count, or number of peripheral blood lymphocytes. Toxicity of BCG was limited to transient malaise and fever (average peak temperature, 38.7 degrees C). There was no significant difference in outcome (recurrence or survival) between BCG-treated and control groups with Stage I or Stage III tumors; there were too few Stage II tumors for separate statistical analysis. Outcome was not affected within or between the two treatment groups by tuberculin skin test status. Combining both treatment groups, Stage III patients had a worse outcome than did Stage I-II patients, non-squamous cell tumor patients (large cell and adenocarcinoma) had worse outcomes than did squamous cell tumor patients, and men had a worse outcome than women. We conclude that, although preoperative intratumoral BCG therapy is safe, it does not lengthen disease-free interval or prolong survival in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.