HER-2 oncogene encodes a transmembrane growth factor receptor that is overexpressed in 25-30% of patients with primary breast and ovarian cancer. A murine monoclonal antibody, 4D5, to the extracellular domain of HER-2 receptor elicits cytostatic growth inhibition of tumor cells overexpressing HER-2 protein, but clinical use of this antibody is limited by genesis of human anti-mouse antibodies. To avoid this problem, a recombinant humanized 4D5 monoclonal antibody (rhuMAb HER-2) was developed and tested using a human tumor xenograft model. Human breast and ovarian cancer cells which overexpress HER-2 were inhibited in vivo by the rhuMAb HER-2 antibody. Tumor growth relative to control was reduced at all doses of antibody tested, and the magnitude of growth inhibition was directly related to dose of rhuMAb HER-2. Tumor growth resumed on termination of antibody therapy, indicating a cytostatic effect. To elicit a cytotoxic response, human breast tumor xenografts were treated with a combination of antibody and antitumor drugs, cisplatin or doxorubicin. The combination of antibody with either cisplatin or doxorubicin resulted in significantly greater growth inhibition, with the cisplatin combination demonstrating a greater response. In addition, therapy with cisplatin and antireceptor antibody elicited complete tumor remissions after 2-3 cycles of therapy. The schedule of administration of anti-receptor antibody and cisplatin was critical for occurrence of antibody-induced potentiation in cisplatin cytotoxicity. Enhanced killing of tumor cells was found only if antibody and drug were given in close temporal proximity. Since interference with DNA repair pathways may contribute to this receptor-enhanced chemosensitivity, repair of cisplatin-damaged reporter DNA (pCMV-beta) was determined in human breast cells. As in studies of antibody-enhanced cisplatin cytotoxicity in vivo, treatment with rhuMAb HER-2 blocked the repair of cisplatin-damaged DNA only if the antibody was administered in close temporal proximity to transfection of the drug-exposed reporter DNA. An alternative measure of DNA repair, unscheduled DNA synthesis, was also assessed. Treatment with either cisplatin or doxorubicin led to an increase in unscheduled DNA synthesis that was reduced by combined therapy with antireceptor antibody specific to HER-2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. Using a direct measure of DNA repair, therapy of HER-2-overexpressing cells with rhuMAb HER-2 also blocked the removal of cisplatin-induced DNA adducts. Expression of p21/WAF1, an important mediator of DNA repair, was disrupted in breast cancer cells with HER-2 overexpression, but not in control cells, after treatment with HER-2 antibody, thus suggesting cross-communication between the HER-2 signaling and DNA repair pathways. These data demonstrate an in vivo antiproliferative effect of rhuMAb HER-2 on tumors that overexpress HER-2 receptor and a therapeutic advantage in the administration of the antireceptor antibody in combination with chemotherapeutic agents.