We examined the therapeutic efficacy of 131I-labeled murine monoclonal antibody (MAb) PAM4 against human pancreatic cancers carried as xenografts in athymic nude mice. Animals bearing the CaPan1 tumor (0.2 cm3) were either untreated or were given, 131I-labeled nonspecific Ag8 antibody. By week 7 mean tumor size had grown 16.5 +/- 8.4-fold and 4.2 +/- 2.5-fold for the untreated and 131I-Ag8-treated animals, respectively. In contrast, animals administered 131I-PAM4 exhibited marked regression of tumors to an average of 15% of initial tumor volume. Since most pancreatic cancer patients present with large tumor burdens, the limitation of 131I-PAM4 treatment with respect to initial tumor size was investigated in animals bearing tumors of approximately 0.5 cm3, 1.0 cm3 and 2.0 cm3. Significant extension of survival time (>3-fold increase) was noted for both the 0.5 cm3 and 1.0 cm3 131I-PAM4-treated groups, compared to their respective untreated controls. Even in the group bearing large 2.0-cm3 tumors, survival was increased 2-fold over the control group. To further improve anti-tumor effects in large tumors, 2 injections of 131I-PAM4 were administered at a 4-week interval to animals bearing tumors of approximately 1.0 cm3. Significant extended survival was noted for the group receiving 2 doses when compared to the group receiving only 1 dose.