The purpose of this Phase I study was to determine the feasibility of using an anti-erbB-2-encoding adenovirus (Ad21) to treat erbB-2-overexpressing ovarian cancer. Recurrent ovarian cancer patients were treated i.p. with Ad21 in dosages ranging from 1 x 109 to 1 x 1011 pfu. Patients were monitored after treatment for evidence of clinical toxicity and efficacy. Peritoneal aspirates and serum samples were obtained to assess for evidence of gene transfer/expression, for generation of wild-type vector, and antiadenoviral humoral response. Fifteen patients were treated per study specifications. Treatment-specific grade 1/2 fever was experienced by 9 of 15 (60%) patients. Other transient grade 1/2 constitutional, pain, and gastrointestinal symptoms were also experienced. No dose-limiting vector-related toxicity was experienced. Of 13 patients evaluable for response, 5 (38%) had stable disease and 8 (61%) had evidence of progressive disease. One patient with nonmeasurable disease normalized her CA125 at the 8-week evaluation, and one patient with nonmeasurable disease remained without clinical evidence of disease for 6 months after treatment. PCR analysis of peritoneal aspirates demonstrated the presence of Ad21 in 84.6%, 84.6%, and 61.6% of evaluable specimens at days 2, 14, and 56 after treatment, respectively. No wild-type virus was detected. Reverse transcription-PCR analysis demonstrated encoding gene in 10 of 14 evaluable patients at day 2. Five of six evaluable patients had an increase in antiadenovirus antibody titer. This study suggests that adenoviral-mediated gene therapy using an anti-erbB-2-directed intrabody is feasible in the context of human ovarian cancer.