We have investigated the efficacy and immunologic characteristics of immune effector cells generated from cultures containing large numbers of viable tumor cells and interleukin 2 (IL 2) in the adoptive immunotherapy of experimentally induced pulmonary metastases from the newly developed, weakly immunogenic MCA 105 sarcoma in mice. The current culture conditions allowed increases of either normal or MCA 105 immune spleen cells up to 94-fold in 15 days. The in vitro expanded normal and MCA 105 immune cells displayed nonspecific in vitro cytotoxicity against several syngeneic tumor targets. However, therapeutically effective cells could only be obtained from cultures initiated with MCA 105 immune spleen cells. Immunotherapy with expanded immune effector cells could lead to the reduction of established 3 day pulmonary metastases, prolongation of survival, and cure of tumor in the majority of animals. The generation and proliferation of therapeutic effector cells in vitro depended on the presence in cultures of specific tumor stimulator cells as well as the presence of IL 2. Although immunotherapy with either fresh noncultured or secondarily in vitro-sensitized (IVS) MCA 105 immune spleen cells was immunologically specific, the efficacy of the adoptive cellular therapy with cultured but not fresh immune cells could be improved by the administration to tumor-bearing hosts of exogenous IL 2. In addition to numerical expansion, the IVS immune cells, on a per cell basis, afforded an eightfold to 10-fold increase in therapeutic efficacy when compared with fresh noncultured MCA 105 immune cells. Our results indicate that the current culture procedure induced in vitro antigenic stimulation and expansion of tumor-specific immune effector cells that was otherwise not possible by conventional mixed lymphocyte-tumor cultures.