Tumor infiltrate, predominantly constituted by lymphocytes, may represent an important prognostic factor in bronchioloalveolar carcinoma (BAC), in addition to tumor extension and histological type. In the present study, we determined the presence, the origin, and the prognostic importance of neutrophils that also participate in leukocyte infiltrates of BAC. Neutrophil alveolitis was determined immunohistochemically in both lung biopsies and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples from 29 patients with histologically proved BAC. The local expression of interleukin (IL)-8 was determined by immunohistochemical and immunoenzymatic techniques. Neutrophil counts were analyzed in relation to the clinical outcome of patients by the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox's univariate and stepwise multivariate models. Lymphocytes and neutrophils dominated the inflammatory cell population in the lower respiratory tract of patients with BAC. Neutrophils were located mainly in the alveolar lumen and seldom in alveolar wall whereas lymphocytes were exclusively present in alveolar wall. A relationship was observed between the number of neutrophils and the level of IL-8 in BAL fluid suggesting the involvement of that chemokine in neutrophil recruitment. The tumor cells were the predominant cells that appeared to express IL-8 by immunolocalization. The presence of increased numbers of neutrophils was significantly associated with a poorer outcome in patients with BAC (P = 0.02). In a multivariate analysis, the neutrophil percentage in BAL fluid was an independent predictor of clinical outcome. The risk of death was increased substantially (rate ratio, 5.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.1 to 24.7) among patients with BAL neutrophil percentage of > or = 39% (median of the distribution) as compared with the others. In BAC, neutrophils accumulate in the alveolar lumen. Elaboration of IL-8 by tumor cells may be responsible for this event, which is associated with a significantly higher risk of death.