The clinical application of synthetic tumor peptide-based vaccines is currently limited to patients with specified major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I alleles. Such logistic limitations may be overcome using tumor gene-based approaches. Here we describe the effective generation of dendritic cells (DC) expressing tumor peptide-MHC complexes as a result of particle-mediated transfer of genes encoding tumor-associated antigens (TAA). Bone marrow-derived DC were transfected with plasmid DNA encoding the tumor-associated viral antigen E7 derived from human papilloma virus (HPV) 16. When applied as a vaccine, these genetically modified DC induced antigen-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in vivo and promoted the rejection of a subsequent, normally lethal challenge with an HPV 16-transformed tumor cell line. Of greatest interest, immunization of mice with syngeneic DC genetically modified to enhance their presentation of a constitutive "self" epitope derived from the tumor-suppressor gene product p53 caused a significant reduction in the in vivo growth of a chemically induced p53-positive sarcoma. These results suggest that cancer vaccines consisting of DC genetically modified to express TAA of viral or "self" origin effectively induce antitumor immunity in vivo.