IL-12 is a complex cytokine in both its structure and its range of biologic activities. Fusions of this heterodimeric molecule with an intact antitumor Ab were made to test the feasibility and efficacy of targeting IL-12 to tumors to elicit a local immune response. Fusion proteins composed of the human p35 and p40 subunits had IL-12 bioactivities that were nearly as potent on human immune cells as the rIL-12 standard, but were inactive on mouse cells. Hybrid IL-12 fusion proteins composed of mouse p35 and human p40, fused to Ab, were capable of inducing IFN-gamma, but were much less active on mouse spleen cells than a mouse IL-12 standard. Despite this relatively low activity, the hybrid fusion protein was as effective in a SCID mouse model as a fully active Ab-IL-2 fusion protein in eliminating established pulmonary metastases of CT26 colon carcinoma. Specific targeting of a human IL-12 fusion protein to metastatic prostate carcinoma xenografts was also shown to be effective in SCID mice transplanted with human lymphocyte-activated killer cells. These results demonstrate the importance of directing this potent cytokine to the tumor microenvironment and suggest an important alternative to systemic IL-12 administration or gene therapy for increasing its therapeutic index.