Interleukin-12 (IL-12) is a key regulator of cell-mediated immunity that has therapeutic potential in cancer and infectious disease. In a previous Phase 1 dose escalation study of a single test dose of recombinant human IL-12 (rhIL-12) followed 14 days later by cycles of five consecutive daily intravenous injections every 3 weeks, we showed that a dose level up to 500 ng/kg could be administered with acceptable levels of safety. Based on these results, a Phase 2 study was conducted. In the Phase 2 study, however, administration of rhIL-12 at this same dose level resulted in severe toxicities with some patients unable to tolerate more than two successive doses. Of the 17 patients receiving rhIL-12 in the Phase 2 study, 12 patients were hospitalized and two patients died. A thorough scientific investigation to determine the cause of this unexpected toxicity failed to identify any difference in the drug products used or the patient populations enrolled in the Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies that could have accounted for the profound difference in toxicity. The focus of the investigation therefore shifted to the schedule of rhIL-12 administration. We determined that a single injection of rhIL-12 2 weeks before consecutive dosing included in the Phase 1 study, but not in the schedule of administration in the Phase 2 study, has a profound abrogating effect on IL-12-induced interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) production and toxicity. This observation of schedule-dependent toxicity of IL-12 has been verified in mice, as well as nonhuman primates. In this regard, a single injection of IL-12 before consecutive daily dosing protected mice and cynomolgus monkeys from acute toxicity including mortality and was associated with an attenuated IFN-gamma response. Because of this unique biologic response, careful attention to the schedule of administration is required to assure safe and effective clinical development of this highly promising cytokine.