A major obstacle to the effective use of adoptive immunotherapeutic treatment of cancer is the difficulty of obtaining tumor-reactive lymphocytes in either sufficient numbers or with appropriate in vivo function to make such an approach feasible. Previous studies have shown that antitumor cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) with in vivo efficacy can be generated in vitro from lymphoid cells obtained from lymph nodes that drain the anatomical site of a tumor. Results presented here demonstrate that inclusion of interleukin 7 (IL-7) into the medium in which such CTL are cultured can support their growth in vitro for prolonged periods of time in the absence of repeated stimulation with either tumor stimulator cells or tumor antigen. More importantly, antitumor CTL propagated in medium containing IL-7 have retained both their antigenic specificity and their ability to reject tumors in vivo subsequent to intravenous injection. Parallel cultures of antitumor CTL similarly cultured in medium containing only IL-2 could only be maintained for 5-6 wk, after which the number and proportion of viable cells that were recoverable from such cultures progressively decreased. Phenotypic analysis of CTL maintained after extended culture (i.e., 22 mo) in medium containing IL-7 demonstrated them to be CD3+4-8+ T cells. These cells were also found to express lymphocyte function associated 1, intercellular adhesion molecule 1, and Mel-14 cell interaction molecules. The data also demonstrate that these CTL do not require the presence of antigen-presenting cell populations to mount a proliferative response to tumor stimulator cells. Cells in these cultures were also demonstrated to produce IL-2 after stimulation with irradiated tumor cells, thereby indicating that these CTL have become independent of the requirement for CD4+ helper cells to survive and function either in vitro or in vivo. Collectively, the findings that IL-7 can beneficially augment the generation, and propagate the long-term growth, of antitumor CTL from lymph nodes draining a tumor site may have profound implications for promoting the immunotherapeutic treatment of cancer in humans.

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