Tumors are known to produce factors suppressing macrophage function. In this study we demonstrated in vitro suppression of macrophage chemiluminescent oxidative burst associated with viable cells and cell-free extracts of two urological neoplasms--murine renal cell carcinoma (Renca) and murine bladder tumor (MBT). Suppression was reversed by extracts of two Chinese medicinal herbs, Astragalus membranaceus (AM) and Ligustrum lucidum (LL). Murine macrophage cell line J774 was incubated with either the viable tumor cells or the cell-free tumor extract for 18 hours at 37C and 5% CO2. Chemiluminescent oxidative burst as an indicator of macrophage function was triggered by adding zymosan A suspension containing luminol and assayed in an automated luminometer. Photon emission over time was counted and the results were expressed as integrated photon emission. Significant dose-related depression of oxidative burst occurred with either the viable tumor cells or the cell-free tumor extracts. Depression was partially or completely reversed by the presence of 50-100 micrograms./ml. of either the AM or the LL extract. AM and LL have previously been shown to modulate immune response. Data from this study suggest that they may also exert their antitumor activity via abolition of tumor-associated macrophage suppression.