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Seven ovarian and 33 breast high-risk stage II/III and stage IV cancer patients received high-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell rescue. Thirty to 151 days after stem cell transplantation, the patients received their first immunotherapy treatment with Theratope STn-KLH cancer vaccine. Most patients developed increasing IgG anti-STn titers to a sustained peak after the fourth or fifth immunizations. Only one patient had elevated CA27.29 (MUC1 mucin) serum levels at trial entry. Five of the seven patients with preimmunotherapy elevated serum CA125 levels demonstrated decreasing CA125 levels during immunotherapy, consistent with an antitumor response. Evidence of STn antigen-specific T-cell proliferation was obtained from 17 of the 27 evaluable patients who received at least three immunotherapy treatments. Eleven of the 26 patients tested had evidence of an anti-STn TH, antigen-specific T-cell response as determined by interferon-7, but not interleukin (IL)-4, production. After immunization, lytic activity of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) tested against a lymphokine activated killer (LAK)-sensitive cell line, a natural killer (NK)- sensitive cell line, and an STn-expressing cancer cell line (OVCAR) increased significantly. In vitro IL-2 treatment of the PBLs after vaccination greatly enhanced killing of the STn+0 cancer cell line. Evidence of the development of OVCAR specific killing activity, over and above that seen due to LAK or NK killing, is presented. These studies provide the strongest evidence in humans of the development of an antitumor T-cell response after immunization with a cancer-associated carbohydrate antigen.