The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of tumor-localized hyperthermia at 42 degrees C on the tissue distribution of radioiodinated monoclonal antibody F(ab')2 fragments. Paired-label biodistribution measurements were performed in athymic mice bearing D-54 MG human glioma xenografts on one leg. Mice received both the 131I-labeled F(ab')2 fragment of Mel-14, reactive with human gliomas and melanomas, and nonspecific 125I-labeled RPC 5 F(ab')2. Tumor-bearing legs were placed in a 42 degrees C water bath or a 37 degrees C water bath (control) for 2 or 4 h. In mice sacrificed immediately after 2 h of heating, no hyperthermia-induced differences in the distribution of either fragment were observed. In the 4-h groups, tumor uptake of Mel-14 F(ab')2 increased from 7.04 +/- 1.59% injected dose (ID)/g at 37 degrees C to 20.65 +/- 4.53% ID/g at 42 degrees C (P less than 0.0001), and tumor localization of the control fragment rose from 5.23 +/- 1.35% ID/g to 14.51 +/- 1.37% ID/g (P less than 0.0001). In another experiment, F(ab')2 fragments were injected, tumors were heated for 4 h, and groups were sacrificed at 4, 8, and 16 h after injection. Statistically significant 2- to 3-fold higher uptake of both fragments in tumor were observed at all time points. Hyperthermic conditions also resulted in higher tumor:tissue ratios for both fragments. These results suggest that it may be possible to use tumor-localized hyperthermia to increase the therapeutic utility of radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies, particularly when labeled with short lived nuclides such as the 7.2-h alpha-emitter 211At.