The transduction efficiencies of adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV, serotype 2) and adenovirus vectors (ADV, serotype 5) were examined in three different models of cancer. First, we used flow cytometry to quantitate AAV-GFP or ADV-GFP transduction in 13 cell lines derived from malignant tissue (6 gliomas, 6 mammary cancers, and 1 leukemia). These experiments showed variable transduction efficiency (0%-81%) between the cell lines, with ADV being more effective compared to AAV in 9 of 13 cell lines. Second, spheroids prepared from human glioblastomas were infected with ADV or AAV expressing GFP or lacZ cassettes, and after 2 weeks, uniform reporter gene expression was observed on the spheroid. Whereas AAV produced consistent transduction throughout the spheroids, ADV infection was mainly limited to the outer cell layers of the spheroids, suggesting that AAV were more efficient at penetrating solid tumor tissue. Third, human biopsies from glioblastoma multiforme patients were xenografted into nude rats and grown for 4 weeks followed by viral vector injection. Combined use of high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and histologic analysis allowed the identification of transduced cells and their spatial distribution within the tumors. AAV-mediated transgene expression was observed in cell clusters through the entire tumor, while ADV-mediated transduction was restricted to cells at the tumor periphery. Thus, while AAV and ADV vectors may infect tumor-derived cell lines to a similar degree, AAV penetrated glioblastoma spheroids and xenografts more efficiently compared to ADV vectors. These results suggest that AAV may be suitable for therapeutic gene delivery to malignant tumors.