Tumor cell (TC) contamination of stem cell products can contribute to relapse after high dose chemotherapy and stem cell rescue. A new purging technology using replication-deficient recombinant adenovirus (Adv) containing the p53 tumor suppressor gene (Adv-p53) has been suggested to reduce tumor contamination of autologous stem cell product. We demonstrate herein a safe and effective Adv-p53 purging procedure using four human breast cancer TC lines. Multiple parameters need to be achieved to successfully purge stem cell products, including a high cell:virus ratio, a small incubation volume, a long incubation time and 37°C rather than room temperature. These parameters are all interrelated and equally important for the inhibition of TC clonogenic growth. In our studies, we also observed that Adv could nonspecifically inhibit TC clonogenic growth, although Adv-p53 treatment led to a significantly greater inhibition of clonogenic growth by cells expressing mutated p53. The presence of peripheral stem cell (PSC) products was found to decrease the effect of Adv-p53 on TC clonogenic growth, suggesting that PSC products could compete with TC for infection by recombinant Adv. However, X-Gal staining after incubation with Adv containing-galactosidase demonstrated that PSC products were 2,000-fold more resistant to Adv infection than TC. We conclude that a 4-hour incubation of stem cell products (2 × 108/ml) with 4 × 1011 Adv-p53 particles is sufficient to completely purge TC with no effect on hematopoietic cell function.