NKT cells are a regulatory subset of T lymphocytes with immune modulatory effects and an important role in anti-tumor immunity. The feasibility of "ex-vivo education" of NKT cells has recently been demonstrated. To evaluate the anti-tumor effect of ex-vivo immune-modulated NKT lymphocytes in a murine model of hepatocellular carcinoma. Athymic Balb/C mice were sublethally irradiated and transplanted with human Hep3B HCC. NKT cells prepared from immunocompetent Balb/C mice were pulsed ex vivo with HCC-derived antigens (Group A), Hep3B cells (group B) or BSA (group C), and adoptively transferred into HCC harboring mice (1 x 0(6) NKT cells per mouse). Group D mice did not undergo NKT cell transplantation. Group E mice were transplanted with 1 x 10(6) NKT cells from HBV-immunized donors. Mice were followed for tumor size and weight. To determine the mechanism of the anti-tumor effect, intrasplenic lymphocyte populations were analyzed by FACS for NKT, CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte subpopulations; STAT 1, 4 and 6 expression in splenocytes was assessed by Western blot, and serum cytokine levels were measured by ELISA. Adoptive transfer of NKT cells pulsed with HCC-derived antigens (group A) and NKT cells from immunized donors (group E) resulted in complete disappearance of tumors within 4 weeks and attenuated weight loss (6.5% and 7% in groups A and E, respectively). In contrast, mice in groups B, C, and D developed large, necrotic tumors and severe weight loss (21%, 17% and 23% weight loss in groups B, C, and D, respectively). NKT/CD4 and CD8/CD4 ratios were significantly increased in groups A and E (12.3 and 17.6 in groups A and D, respectively, compared to 6.4, 4.8 and 5.6 in groups B, C and D, respectively, for the NKT/CD4 ratio; 41 and 19.8 in groups A and E, respectively, compared to 6.5, 11.8 and 3.2 in groups B, C, and D, respectively, for the CD8/CD4 ratio). Expression of the transcription factor STAT4 was evident in group A, but not in groups B-D. Serum IFNgamma, IL12 and IL4 levels were increased in groups A and E. Adoptive transfer of NKT lymphocytes exposed ex vivo by HCC-derived antigens loaded on dendritic cells and NKT cells from immunized donors led to suppression of HCC in mice. NKT-mediated anti-tumor activity was associated increased NKT and CD8+ T lymphocyte numbers, increased expression of STAT4, a marker for IL-12 activity and elevated serum levels of the proinflammatory cytokines IFNgamma and IL12, and of IL4. Ex-vivo modulation of NKT lymphocytes holds promise as a novel mode of immune therapy for HCC.