Objectives. To determine the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of suicide gene therapy using adenoviral-mediated herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene (HSV-tk) and the prodrug ganciclovir (GCV) in a murine model of human transitional cell carcinoma. Methods. We used a replication-defective adenoviral construct containing the beta-galactosidase gene (ADV/Rous sarcoma virus [RSV]-beta-gal] as a control or ADV/RSV-tk as the therapeutic vector under the transcriptional control of the RSV long-terminal repeat promoter. Transduction efficiency was assessed in vitro by infection of MBT-2 cells with ADV/RSV-beta-gal at various multiplicities of infection (MOI) utilizing 5-bromo-4-chlor-3-indolyl-beta-D-galactoside (X-gal) staining. Sensitivity of MBT-2 cells to the therapeutic vector was determined after infection with ADV/RSV-tk with or without GCV. Subcutaneous tumors were established in syngeneic CSH/He female mice with 5 x 105 MBT-2 cells. Optimal dosing of ADV/RSV-tk was determined by direct percutaneous tumor injection with increasing viral doses and treatment with GCV. Treatment efficacy, long-term survival, and toxicity were determined in separate, similar, controlled experiments. Results. In vitro studies indicated greater than 95% transduction 96 hours after inoculation at an MOI of 3000 and a greater than 95% cell death rate with RSV-tk + GCV at an MOI of 61 or greater. In vivo experiments demonstrated an optimal viral dose of 3 x 108 plaque-forming units (pfu) and a greater than fourfold reduction in tumor growth for the animals treated with ADV/RSV-tk compared with control animals (P = 0.0013). Toxicity was limited to histologic evidence of hepatitis with ADV/RSV-tk doses greater than 3 x 108 pfu + GCV. Long-term survival of treatment animals was significantly increased over that of control animals (59%, P = 0.0001). Conclusions. ADV/RSV-tk with GCV treatment results in efficient gene transfer in vitro and provides effective therapy in experimental murine bladder cancer by significantly inhibiting tumor growth and improving host survival.