Patients with pancreatic cancer frequently demonstrate symptoms such as weight-loss and muscle wasting and have clinical evidence of a systemic inflammatory response. Such effects may be mediated by pro-inflammatory cytokines derived from tumor cells. The production of interleukin-6 and -8 by pancreatic cancer cell lines and the influence of other cytokines on this production was studied. IL-8 was produced by all cell lines and production was increased following exposure to IL-1 and TNF. Cytokine-stimulated, but not basal IL-8 production was reduced by co-incubation with IL-4 in the MIA PaCa-2 and PANC-1 cell lines. The CFPAC cell line produced IL-6, but this production was not altered by IL-1, TNF or IL-4. In the PANC-1 cell line IL-8 and IL-8 receptors were only detected by PCR in cells which had been stimulated with TNF or IL-1. Serum concentrations of IL-6 and IL-8 were elevated in patients with pancreatic cancer compared with controls. In conclusion, human pancreatic cancer cell lines elaborate pro-inflammatory cytokines which have the potential to mediate elements of the systemic inflammatory response.