Constitutive expression of the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) is characteristic of malignant ovarian surface epithelium. We investigated the hypothesis that this autocrine action of TNF-alpha generates and sustains a network of other mediators that promote peritoneal cancer growth and spread. When compared with two ovarian cancer cell lines that did not make TNT-a., constitutive production of TNF-alpha was associated with greater release of the chemokines CCL2 and CXCL12, the cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and macrophage migration-inhibitory factor (MIF), and the angiogenic factor vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). TNF-alpha production was associated also with increased peritoneal dissemination when the ovarian cancer cells were xenografted. We next used RNA interference to generate stable knockdown of TNF-alpha in ovarian cancer cells. Production of CCL2, CXCL12, VEGF, IL-6, and MIF was decreased significantly in these cells compared with wild-type or mock-transfected cells, but in vitro growth rates were unaltered. Tumor growth and dissemination in vivo were significantly reduced when stable knockdown of TNF-alpha was achieved. Tumors derived from TNF-alpha knockdown cells were noninvasive and well circumscribed and showed high levels of apoptosis, even in the smallest deposits. This was reflected in reduced vascularization of TNF-alpha knockdown tumors. Furthermore, culture supernatants from such cells failed to stimulate endothelial cell growth in vitro. We conclude that autocrine production of TNF-alpha by ovarian cancer cells stimulates a constitutive network of other cytokines, angiogenic factors, and chemokines that may act in an autocrine/paracrine manner to promote colonization of the peritoneum and neovascularization of developing tumor deposits.