Intratumoral natural killer cells (NKC) and dendritic cells (DC) may affect the clinical features of various gastrointestinal cancers. However, the relationship between intratumoral NKC and DC remains unclear. We examined 169 patients with gastric cancer who underwent gastrectomy at Kagoshima University Hospital. Immunohistochemical staining of CD57 and S-100-protein was performed to evaluate NKC and DC infiltration, respectively. A total of 25 areas containing pericancerous tissue were selected for determining the number of NKC and DC under high power microscopy (x400). Patients were classified into two groups according to NKC and DC population. Intratumoral lymphocytic infiltration was also calculated in 15 areas with a high power (x400) objective. The degree of NKC and DC infiltration was gradually decreased according to the progression of nodal involvement. Patients with many NKC infiltration had a lower positivity of lymph node metastasis and lymphatic invasion than patients with little NKC infiltration. DC infiltration was also negatively correlated with depth of invasion, lymph node metastasis and curativity. DC infiltration was positively correlated with lymphocytic infiltration (P=0.01. r=0.6). The 5-year survival rates of patients with many NKC infiltration and patients with DC many infiltration were 75 and 78%, respectively, both of which were significantly better than that of patients with little NKC and DC infiltration (P<0.05). NKC may be activated without DC or intratumoral lymphocytes. Intratumoral NKC may act as an independent immunologic effector against tumor cells, unlike DC.