Mucin molecules are displayed on most human cancer cell surface, and are different from that expressed on normal epithelial cells. The molecular structure of mucin core peptide (apomucin) was identified recently. However, the function of apomucin is only poorly understood. To further elucidate the role of apomucin in the modulation of cancers, this study was to investigate the immune responses induced by mucin core peptide in mice. The mucin core peptide was isolated from pancreatic cancer cell line SW1990. When mice immunized with this apomucin (10 micrograms/time x 6) plus DETOX, all mice developed delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) after challanged with apomucin or synthetic mucin core peptide MUC-2 or MUC-3, while the mice immunized with only apomucin did not develop DTH. No antibodies were detected by ELISA after immunization. When the splenic cells of vaccinated mice were cocultured with this apomucin (10-50 micrograms/ml) and rhIL-2 (50 U/ml) in vitro, the proliferated lymphocytes showed cytotoxicity against human cancer cells, including colon cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia as measured by Cr-51 release assay. The cytotoxicity could be blocked by antibodies against MUC-2 and MUC-3. These results provide a rational basis for the use of apomucin as a vaccine to stimulate anti-tumor immunity.