Previous studies have shown inhibition of cervical cancer cell growth by treatment with high concentrations of IL-2. In the present study, we evaluated the in vitro and in vivo effects of recombinant human IL-2 on HPV-associated tumor cells (3T3-16). Treatment of 3T3-16 cells with rhIL-2 for 72 h inhibited cell growth in a dose-dependent manner and this effect was evidenced at nanomolar concentrations. These tumor cells expressed mRNA for beta and gamma subunits of the IL-2 receptor, which are required for signal transduction. In experiments to explore the effect of IL-2 on the growth of the HPV-associated tumor, mice received rhIL-2 through different routes: (i) intraperitoneal; (ii) subcutaneous, at the tumor inoculation site; or (iii) subcutaneous, distant from the tumor inoculation site. An effective antitumor response was observed only in those animals that received IL-2 at the tumor site (P<0.01). These results indicate the potential adequacy of therapeutic strategies based on local administration of rhIL-2 for cervical carcinoma, not only based on the ability of this cytokine to stimulate cellular-mediated immunity but also because of its direct effects on tumor cells.