The nonmammalian cytosine deaminase (CD) enzyme converts the nontoxic prodrug 5-fluorocytosine (5-FC) to the toxic metabolite 5-fluorouracil. Parental cells of a mammary adenocarcinoma (TSA-pc) of BALB/c mice were transfected with the CD gene (TSA-CD), and the ability of 5-FC to hamper their growth was evaluated. A quantity amounting to 0.5 mg of 5-FC/0.3 ml of medium inhibits the proliferation of TSA-CD cells, but not that of TSA-pc, nor that of TSA-pc transfected with neomycin-resistance gene only (TSA-neo). In BALB/c mice, 800 mg 5-FC/kg of body weight injected daily i.p. for 30 days causes total regression of incipient (1-day-old), and established (3- and 7-day-old) TSA-CD tumors, and of 3-day-old experimental lung metastases, but does not impair TSA-pc nor TSA-neo cell growth. Because in CD8+ T lymphocyte- and granulocyte-depleted mice 5-FC no longer impairs TSA-CD growth, immune mechanisms appear to play an important role in this regression. Following, regression, all mice are resistant to subsequent s.c. or i.v. lethal challenges with TSA-pc. The induction of this immune memory is dependent on CD4+ lymphocytes, whereas its effector phase depends on both CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes. The memory elicited in tumor-bearing mice by the 5-FC-dependent regression of TSA-CD tumors cures a significant number of mice with 4-day-old TSA-pc metastases, but does not impair the growth of 4-day-old solid s.c. tumors. The reliability of this regression and the subsequent establishment of an efficient immune memory against poorly immunogenic TSA-pc offer the prospect that CD-transduced tumor cells and 5-FC can be used as components of a live antitumor vaccine.