This report describes a test of the hypothesis that the oncoloytic effect of genetically engineered, replication competent herpes simplex viruses (HSV) depends both on cell destruction by the virus and an immune response to the tumor cells induced in an incompetent animal system. The oncolytic vector was a HSV recombinant virus in which both copies of the γ1 34.5 gene were replaced with the murine genes encoding the cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) or interleukin-10 (IL-10). The hypothesis predicted that if an immune response plays a role in survival following intratumoral treatment of tumour-bearing animals with HSV, expression of IL-4 should prolong survival whereas expression of IL-10 should reduce it. The results are that (1) these cytokines can be expressed by HSV in productively infected cells both in vitro and in vivo; (2) HSV-expressing IL-4 or IL-10 genes were able to infect and destroy glioma cells in vitro; (3) intracerebral inoculation of HSV expressing either IL-4 or IL-10 into syngeneic murine glioma GL-261 cells implanted in the brains of immuno-competent C57BL/6 mice produced dramatically opposite physiologic responses. The IL-4 HSV significantly prolonged survival of tumor bearers, whereas tumor-bearing mice that received the IL-10 HSV had a median survival that was identical to that of saline treated controls; (4) immunohistochemical analyses of mouse brains at 3 and 7 days after virus inoculation showed marked accumulation of inflammatory cells composed primarily of macrophages/microglia, with various proportions of CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, but few B lymphocytes. We conclude that the cytokines expressed from genes encoded in the viral genome influence HSV therapy of tumors and this is probably due to the host immune response. Thus, cytokine expression may be an important adjunct to tumor therapy utilizing genetically engineered HSV.