Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) can be grown in vitro in medium containing interleukin-2 (IL-2). In clinical trials at the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute, patients with metastatic malignant melanomas were treated with IL-2 plus the adoptive transfer of autologous TILs. At the time of treatment, TILs were assayed for in vitro lysis of fresh autologous and allogeneic melanoma cells and Daudi cells. Patients were evaluated for clinical response 4-8 weeks later. Lysis of autologous tumor cells by TILs was significantly higher for responding than for nonresponding patients. Tumor cells from responding and nonresponding patients were equally sensitive to lysis by allogeneic lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells. There was no difference between TILs from responding and nonresponding patients for lysis of LAK-sensitive Daudi cells, which was low in most cases and demonstrated that TIL lysis of autologous tumor cells was not due to LAK cells. The observed association of autologous tumor cell lysis by TILs with clinical response suggests that the development of culture methods to optimize lysis of autologous tumors may lead to increased response rates using this TIL treatment regimen.