Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial, solid tumor in children. Despite intensive chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation, the 5- year projected survival rate is 20% to 25%. In vitro studies have shown enhanced natural killer cell (NK) lysis of tumor cells after exposure of NK cells to interleukin-2 (IL-2). In vivo studies have demonstrated similar immunologic effects but have also revealed severe toxicities associated with the use of IL-2. IL-12 is a newly described cytokine that has several properties, including the ability to act synergistically with IL-2 in generating lymphokine-activated killer cells (LAK) against known tumor targets. We investigated the role of IL- 12 in the generation of peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) lysis of neuroblastoma cell lines. PBMC were activated with IL-12 alone and in combination with IL-2. Whereas IL-12 alone produced only modest enhancement of NK cell cytotoxicity, the combination of IL-2 and IL-12 was most effective in activating NK cell lysis of neuroblastoma cell lines. Further, we showed that large granular lymphocytes were the effector cells involved in target cell lysis. Finally, the CD18 molecule was shown to be critical in the lysis of neuroblastoma cells by activated PBMC.

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