A recombinant humanized antibody-interleukin 2 fusion protein (huKS1/4-IL-2) was used to direct IL-2 to the tumor microenvironment and elicit a T cell-mediated eradication of established pulmonary and hepatic CT26-KSA colon carcinoma metastases in syngeneic BALB/c mice. This antitumor effect was specific because a fusion protein, which was nonreactive with these tumor cells, failed to exert any such effect. The efficacy of the huKS1/4-IL-2 fusion protein in eliminating metastases was documented because mixtures of monoclonal antibody huKS1/4 with recombinant human IL-2 were ineffective and, at best, only partially reduced tumor load. Two lines of evidence indicated the eradication of metastases and the absence of minimal residual disease in animals treated with the fusion protein: first, the lack of detection of CT26-KSA cells by reverse transcription-PCR, which can detect one tumor cell in 10(6) liver cells; and second, the tripling of life span. The effector mechanism involved in this tumor eradication is dependent on T cells because the IL-2-directed therapy is ineffective in T cell-deficient SCID mice. The essential effector cells were further characterized as CD8+ T cells by in vivo depletion studies. Such T cells, isolated from tumor-bearing mice after fusion protein therapy, elicited MHC class I-restricted cytotoxicity in vitro against colon carcinoma target cells. Taken together, these data indicate that fusion protein-directed IL-2 therapy induces a T cell-dependent host immune response capable of eradicating established colon cancer metastases in an animal tumor model.