Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBM) from normal donors and patients with recurrent glioma were activated initially for 48-72 h with phytohemagglutinin-P (PHA) and recombinant human interleukin-2 (IL-2), and then proliferated in vitro for up to 5 months with IL-2. These cells are termed mitogen-stimulated lymphokine-activated T killer (T-LAK) cells. We measured patterns of T-LAK cell growth, in vitro cytolytic activity on a panel of continuous and primary tumor cells, and the phenotypes of the cells in these cultures. Lymphocyte viability declined dramatically over the first 3-5 days; and then the remaining cells in these cultures began to divide and maintained a constant 30-36 h doubling time for long periods in vitro. Phenotyping revealed that cells in the initial few days of culture were heterogeneous, but became almost totally CD3 T cells after 7-10 days in culture. The T-LAK cells from individual normal donors and cancer patients demonstrated a non-genetically restricted cytolytic ability against a panel of both continuous cell lines and primary autologous and allogeneic glioblastoma cells in vitro. This technique provides a method of generating large numbers of autologous cytolytic T cells with non-restricted anti-tumor activity that can be derived from peripheral blood mononuclear cells.