Immunotoxins (ITs) consisting of a cell-binding component and a potent toxin were developed as a new class of biological anti-tumor agents to improve adjuvant therapy. Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) has been demonstrated to be an excellent target for ITs because high concentrations of lymphocyte activation markers such as CD25 and CD30 are expressed on Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (H-RS). Several ITs against these antigens have shown potent antitumor effects against H-RS cells in vitro and in different HL animal models. On the basis of its superiority in preclinical models, the anti-CD25 IT RFT5-SMPT-dgA was subsequently evaluated in a phase I study in patients with refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma. The IT was constructed by linking the monoclonal antibody (Moab) RFT5 via a sterically hindered disulfide linker (SMPT) to deglycosylated ricin A-chain (dgA). All 15 patients enrolled in this trial were heavily pretreated with a mean of five different prior therapies. The IT was administered intravenously over four hours on days 1-3-5-7 for total doses per cycle of 5, 10, 15, or 20 mg/m2. Side effects were reversible and related to the vascular leak syndrome (VLS), i.e. decrease in serum albumin, edema, weight gain, hypotension, tachycardia, myalgia, and weakness. In all three patients receiving 20 mg/m2 NCI toxicity grade III was observed. Thus, 15 mg/m2 is the maximal tolerated dose (MTD) of RFT5-SMPT-dgA. 50% of the patients developed human anti-ricin A-chain antibodies (HARA) and/or human anti-mouse antibodies (HAMA). Clinical results included two partial remissions (PR), one minor response (MR), three stable disease (SD) and nine progressive disease (PD). In an extension of the phase I trial, five additional patients have been treated at the MTD.