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Natural killer (NK) cell activity and the capacity to generate lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cell activity were studied in 43 patients with operable breast cancer before and after surgery. Results were compared with those from ten healthy subjects. Patients with breast cancer had normal LAK and NK cell activity before surgery. A subgroup of patients with stage III disease had depressed LAK cell activity (P < 0.013). NK cell activity decreased by over 50 per cent on the first day after surgery and did not return to preoperative levels by day 7 (P < 0.0005). Generation of LAK cell activity was unaffected by surgery. The addition of 10 per cent autologous plasma to the culture medium during the induction of LAK cell activity in vitro did not suppress LAK cell activity in patients with breast cancer. These results suggest that perioperative adjuvant immunotherapy based on interleukin 2 and LAK cells is not ruled out by systemic suppressive effects from either cancer or surgery.

Original publication




Journal article


The british journal of surgery

Publication Date





1005 - 1007


University Department of Surgery, Western Infirmary, Glasgow, UK.


Breast, Killer Cells, Natural, Killer Cells, Lymphokine-Activated, Tumor Cells, Cultured, Humans, Breast Neoplasms, Preoperative Care, Postoperative Period, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Middle Aged