The effectiveness of in vivo suppression of neovascularization and growth of malignant glial tumors by in situ administration of an antibody directed against basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), a strong mitogen for cells of mesodermal origin, was tested. One hundred fifty congenitally athymic nude rats (han rnu/rnu) were implanted intracerebrally with U-87MG tumor cells, known constitutive producers of bFGF. The animals were randomly assigned to six groups of 25 animals each. Animals were treated by in situ application of saline (Group F), control antibody (Group D), or polyclonal anti-bFGF antibody (Group B). In additional groups a putative effect on tumor growth caused by the treatment application device itself (between growth control Groups A and E), and the effect of heat-inactivated tumor cells (negative control Group C) were tested. After 3 weeks of treatment, tumor progression and degree of neovascularization were morphometrically recorded. In the untreated Groups A and E massive tumor growth was recorded, consisting of 19.9% +/- 0.4% and 27.1% +/- 0.5%, respectively, of the total brain cross-sectional area. In Group C, no tumor growth occurred. In control Groups D and F tumor progression consisted of 18.6% +/- 0.4% and 18.5% +/- 0.4%, respectively, of the total brain cross-sectional area; whereas in the anti-bFGF treated Group B, significantly smaller tumor masses measuring 7.2% +/- 0.1% were recorded. New blood vessels were located both peritumorally and intratumorally and defined as numerical density and area fraction (number/area and area/area). Significantly more new blood vessels were found in Groups A, D, E, and F, ranging from 41,380/mm2 +/- 464/mm2 to 53,442/mm2 +/- 150/mm2 peritumorally and 51,846/mm2 +/- 495/mm2 to 64,660/mm2 +/- 183/mm2 intratumorally than in the anti-bFGF treated Group B, which numbered 8220/mm2 +/- 225/mm2 peritumorally and 16,554/mm2 +/- 236/mm2 intratumorally. The authors conclude that treatment with anti-bFGF antibody is effective in inhibiting tumor-induced angiogenesis and correlated tumor progression. However, owing to the character of the experimental system used, one cannot exclude the possibility that application of the specific anti-bFGF antibody also counteracts device-induced neovascularization. The authors suggest that combined surgical excision and adjuvant immunotherapy of tumors such as glioblastoma and other malignant brain tumors that express bFGF might prevent tumor recurrence.