Magainin peptides and model amphipathic peptides exhibit antibiotic activity and are also cytolytic for transformed human cells. Here we demonstrate in vitro that MSI-511 (an all-D amino-acid model magainin peptide) and MSI-130 (a margainin analogue) were more lytic for 17 human melanomas than for normal melanocytes. Melanomas established s.c. in athymic nude mice and then injected once with the peptide MSI-511 completely disappeared in 6 out of 9 animals, whereas a control peptide had no effect. Murine skin at the tumor injection site was initially affected, but healed within 2 weeks with minimal scarring. Similarly, accelerated healing was seen in human skin grafted to SCID mice and injected with MSI-511. Our results indicate that lytic magainin peptides can be used for local tumor therapy with minimal long-term damage to normal tissues.