Circulating monocytes from multiple myeloma patients enrolled in a clinical study of anti-idiotype vaccination were labelled with clinical-grade anti-CD14 microbeads and positively selected with the CliniMACS instrument. Cells were then grown, according to good manufacturing practice guidelines, in fetal-calf-serum-free medium in cell culture bags and differentiated to dendritic cells (DC) with granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor plus interleukin 4 (IL-4), followed by either tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) or a cocktail of IL-1beta, IL-6, TNF-alpha and prostaglandin-E2. The CD14+ cell yield was increased from 17.6 +/- 6.5% to 93.8 +/- 6.3% (recovery 64.4 +/- 15.4%, viability > 97%). After cell culture, phenotypic analysis showed that 86.7 +/- 6.8% of the cells were DC: 2.27 +/- 0.9 x 108 DC/leukapheresis were obtained, which represented 20.7 +/- 4.6% of the initial number of CD14+ cells. Notably, the cytokine cocktail induced a significantly higher percentage and yield (28.6 +/- 3% of initial CD14+ cells) of DC than TNF-alpha alone, with secretion of larger amounts of IL-12, potent stimulatory activity on allogeneic T cells and efficient presentation of tumour idiotype to autologous T cells. Storage in liquid nitrogen did not modify the phenotype or functional characteristics of preloaded DC. The recovery of thawed, viable DC was 78 +/- 10%. Finally, interferon-alpha-2b was at least as efficient as IL-4 in inducing the differentiation of mature, functional DC from monocytes.