Immunomodulatory substances have been used as antineoplastic agents in experimental and human systems. Many of these agents were derived from microorganisms. Several biologically active fractions have been isolated from Nocardia. These derivatives were shown to induce interferon production, to activate natural killer cells and macrophages and to exert an antitumoral effect. We attempted to examine the mechanism of the antitumoral activity of the Nocardia water-soluble mitogen (NWSM). The tumor tested was the Lewis lung carcinoma (3LL). Regular histological examination and identification of the cellular immune reaction by monoclonal antibodies against macrophages (Mac 1 antigen), B- (IgG expressing) and T-lymphocytes (anti-Lyt-1), analysed by flow cytometry, were performed on samples of the tumor site and of the spleen. Intratumoral administration of the immunomodulators resulted in a massive accumulation of inflammatory cells around the tumor in mice treated with NWSM. The thick rim of infiltrating cells consisted of macrophages and lymphocytes, while the nontreated tumor was found to provoke only a scanty lymphocyte infiltration. Macrophages were, therefore, present at the tumor site and were directly implicated in the antitumoral effect of the Nocardia immunomodulator. T-lymphocytes were also observed at the site of the tumor. The spleen reaction consisted of marked extramedullarly hematopoiesis and enlarged follicles containing prominent germinal centres (assessed also by a FACS-demonstrated increase in B-lymphocytes). In view of the inefficiency of chemotherapy in the treatment of advanced cancer, it is of major importance to explore alternative cancer treatment modalities. Immunotherapy is a particularly interesting alternative since it can potentially affect metastatic disease.