We have shown previously that i.v. injection of interleukin-2-(IL-2) activated natural killer (A-NK) cells together with IL-2 leads to a substantial localization of the A-NK cells into most, but not all, well-established B16 lung metastases in C57BL/6 mice within 12–24 hr. We demonstrate that the morphology of the lung metastases, (loose or more compact in appearance), and their location in the lungs (on the surface or deep in the lung parenchyma) are closely tied to the infiltration-permissiveness of the metastases as well as their sensitivity to treatment with A-NK cells. Although more than 1,100 A-NK cells/mm2 were found in deep metastases with a “loose” morphology (D-L), only 534, 90 and 89 cells/mm2 were found in surface-loose (S-L), surface-compact (S-C) and deep-compact (D-C) metastases, respectively. The best infiltrated metastases responded best to the A-NK cell therapy. Thus, metastases of the D-L phenotype became reduced by 65–90% after treatment with 2 × 106 A-NK cells and IL-2 (120,000 IU Peg-IL-2 every 12 hr for 3 days) compared to similar lesions in animals treated with PEG-IL-2 alone. In contrast, poorly infiltrated metastases, that is lesions of the compact phenotype (D-C and S-C) as well as loose metastases on the lung surface (S-L), did not react significantly to this treatment. We conclude that adoptively transferred A-NK cells are able to eliminate even well-established metastases. The existence of metastases that are resistant to infiltration by the transferred effector cells at time of treatment might reduce the efficacy of cell-based immuno-therapeutic ventures. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.