Experimental findings suggest that granulocyte-monocyte-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) synergistically interacts with interleukin-2 (IL-2) in generating an efficient antigen-specific immune response. We evaluated the toxicity, antitumour activity and immunobiological effects of human recombinant (hr)-GM-CSF and hr-IL-2 in 25 cancer patients who subcutaneously (s.c.) received hr-GM-CSF 150 microg/day for 5 days, followed by hrIL-2 s.c. for 10 days and 15 days rest. Two of the most common side-effects were bone pain and fever. Of the 24 patients evaluable for response, 3 achieved partial remission, 13 experienced stable disease, and 8 progressed. Cytokine treatment increased the number of monocytes, dendritic cells (DC), and lymphocytes (memory T cells) in the peripheral blood and enhanced the antigen-specific immunoreactivity of these patients. Our results show that the hr-GM-CSF and hr-IL-2 combination is active and well tolerated. Its biological activity may support tumour associated antigen (TAA)-specific anticancer immunotherapy by increasing antigen presenting cell (APC) activity and T cell immune competence in vivo.