Overexpression of HER-2/neu has been demonstrated in human ovarian cancer and correlated with poor prognosis. We previously found that the adenovirus type 5 early region 1A (E1A) gene product can repress overexpression and suppress the tumorigenic potential of the HER-2/neu-overexpressing cancer cells. To develop an efficient HER-2/neu-targeting gene therapy with E1A, a replication-deficient adenovirus containing the E1A gene, Ad.E1A(+), was used to transduce the HER-2/neu-overexpressing human ovarian cancer cell line SK-OV3.ip1. Tumor cell growth in vitro and colony formation in soft agarose were greatly inhibited by Ad.E1A(+) transduction. To test therapeutic efficacy in vivo, tumor-bearing mice were established by i.p. injection with ovarian cancer cells and treated by i.p. injection of 10(8) PFU viral solution containing either replication-deficient Ad.E1A(+); control virus Ad.E1A(-) which is the same adenovirus as Ad.E1A(+) except for E1A deletion, or just PBS. Ad.E1A(+) significantly prolonged survival in treated mice for 1 year (80%) whereas in control groups, all mice died of cancer within 4.5 months. Immunohistochemistry analysis indicated that Ad.E1A protein was expressed in tumor tissue and expression of HER-2/neu p185 protein was suppressed in vivo. As a control, another ovarian cancer cell line 2774, in which HER-2/neu is expressed at a basal level, was also inoculated i.p. following the same therapeutic procedure. Ad.E1A(+) could not prolong survival of 2774 cells, indicating that Ad.E1A(+) specifically targeted HER-2/neu-overexpressing tumor cells and functioned as an antitumor agent.