Dendritic cells (DC) and T cells were generated from Ficoll separated bone marrow (BM) mononuclear cells of primary operated breast cancer patients according to new cell culture protocols. BM-DC were capable of functioning as professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and of inducing autologous antigen-specific memory T-cell responses to either tetanus toxoid recall antigen or to breast cancer antigens. Treatment with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) resulted in phenotypic and functional maturation of BM-DC. When BM-DC, pulsed with breast cancer-associated tumor antigens, were cocultured with autologous patient-derived BM-T cells to allow for cognate breast cancer antigen recognition and stimulation, apoptosis of T cells-which occurred in noncognate coculture systems-was inhibited. Furthermore, in cocultures allowing for antigen-specific cognate interactions, the expression on BM-DC of CD83, MHC class II, CD40 and CD86 molecules was upregulated and the cytokines IL-12 and IFN-alpha were produced in significantly elevated amounts. Adoptive transfer of breast cancer-reactive memory T cells together with APCs into human breast cancer-bearing NOD/SCID mice caused a regression of the tumor and prolonged survival of the animals. This was not the case when such animals had been treated by transfer of reactivated BM T cells without BM-DCs. Our findings suggest that cognate interactions between cancer patient-derived memory BM-T cells and tumor antigen-presenting BM-DCs are important for reciprocal cell stimulation, survival and therapeutic activity.