In previous in vitro studies, we have shown that murine splenocytes or cancer patient lymphocytes incubated in IL-2 become lytic for fresh syngeneic or autologous tumors. We have now performed the adoptive transfer of such lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells in a murine B16 metastasis model to test their in vivo efficacy. 1 X 10(8) LAK cells, infused intravenously into C57BL/6 mice with established B16 pulmonary metastases, led to a marked decreased in the number of lung nodules and improved survival. LAK cells administered 3 d after amputation of a tumor-bearing limb also decreased the incidence of spontaneous pulmonary metastases. LAK cells generated from tumor-bearer splenocytes had effects equivalent to those from normal animals, and this antimetastatic effect of the LAK cells did not require the prior administration of cyclophosphamide or other immunosuppressants. Fresh or unstimulated splenocytes had no effect. The antitumor effectors and precursors in vivo and in vitro were Thy-1+. The lymphokine required for the activation appeared to be interleukin 2 (IL-2), since incubation in partially purified supernatants from PMA pulsed EL-4 or Con A-pulsed splenocytes or purified Jurkat IL-2 led to the generation of LAK cells equally active in vivo. The use of IL-2-activated cells may provide a valuable method for the adoptive therapy of human neoplasms as well.