Abstract Background To explore the biological activity of EMD 273063 (hu14.18-IL2), a humanized anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody fused to interleukin-2 (IL2), in patients with unresectable, stage IV cutaneous melanoma as measured by induction of immune activation at the tumor site and in peripheral blood. Methods Nine patients were treated with 4 mg/m2 per day of EMD 273063 given as a 4-h intravenous infusion on days 1, 2, and 3 every four weeks (one cycle). Peripheral blood was analyzed for T cell and natural killer cell phenotype and frequency, as well as levels of soluble IL2 receptor (sIL2R), IL10, IL6, tumor necrosis factor alpha and neopterin. Biopsies of tumor metastasis were performed prior to therapy and at day 10 of the first 2 cycles to study lymphocyte accumulation by immunohistochemistry. Results Treatment was generally well tolerated and there were no study drug-related grade 4 adverse events. Grade 3 events were mainly those associated with IL2, most commonly rigors (3 patients) and pyrexia (2 patients). Best response on therapy was stable disease in 2 patients. There were no objective tumor regressions by standard response criteria. Systemic immune activation was demonstrated by increases in serum levels of sIL2R, IL10, and neopterin. There was evidence of increased tumor infiltration by T cells, but not NK cells, in most post-dosing biopsies, suggesting recruitment of immune cells to the tumor site. Conclusion EMD 273063 demonstrated biologic activity with increased immune-related cytokines and intratumoral changes in some patients consistent with the suspected mechanism of action of this immunocytokine.