In some respects, the EGFR appears to be an attractive target for tumor-targeted antibody therapy: it is overexpressed in many types of epithelial tumor and inhibition of signaling often induces an anti-tumor effect. The use of EGFR specific antibodies, however, may be limited by uptake in organs that have high endogenous levels of the wild type EGFR such as the liver. The de2-7 EGFR (or EGFRvIII) is a naturally occurring extracellular truncation of the EGFR found in a number of tumor types including glioma, breast, lung and prostate. Antibodies directed to this tumor specific variant of the EGFR provide an alternative targeting strategy, although the lower proportion of tumors that express the de2-7 EGFR restricts this approach. We describe a novel monoclonal antibody (MAb 806) that potentially overcomes the difficulties associated with targeting the EGFR expressed on the surface of tumor cells. MAb 806 bound to de2-7 EGFR transfected U87MG glioma cells (U87MG.Delta 2-7) with high affinity (approximately 1 x 10(9) M(-1)), but did not bind parental cells that express the wild type EGFR. Consistent with this observation, MAb 806 was unable to bind a soluble version of the wild type EGFR containing the extracellular domain. In contrast, immobilization of this extracellular domain to ELISA plates induced saturating and dose response binding of MAb 806, suggesting that MAb 806 can bind the wild type EGFR under certain conditions. MAb 806 also bound to the surface of A431 cells, which due to an amplification of the EGFR gene express large amounts of the EGFR. Interestingly, MAb 806 only recognized 10% of the total EGFR molecules expressed by A431 cells and the binding affinity was lower than that determined for the de2-7 EGFR. MAb 806 specifically targeted U87MG.Delta 2-7 and A431 xenografts grown in nude mice with peak levels in U87MG.Delta 2-7 xenografts detected 8 h after injection. No specific targeting of parental U87MG xenografts was observed. Following binding to U87MG.Delta 2-7 cells, MAb 806 was rapidly internalized by macropinocytosis and subsequently transported to lysosomes, a process that probably contributes to the early targeting peak observed in the xenografts. Thus, MAb 806 can be used to target tumor cells containing amplification of the EGFR gene or de2-7 EGFR but does not bind to the wild type EGFR when expressed on the cell surface.