Dendritic cells (DC) are promising candidates for cancer immunotherapy. However, it is not known whether in vitro-generated monocyte-derived DC from cancer patients are altered compared with DC from healthy donors. In a clinical phase I/II study, monocyte-derived DC were generated in vitro utilizing granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor and rh-interleukin-4 (IL-4) and used for cancer immunotherapy. In this study, we tested the effect of various maturation cocktails and performed a comparative evaluation of the DC phenotype and functional characteristics. Polyriboinosinic polyribocytidylic acid (Poly I:C) + tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) induced significant IL-12 p70 secretion, which was increased after addition of a decoy IL-10 receptor. The lymph node homing chemokine receptor CCR-7 expression was induced by TNF-α + IL-1β + IL-6 + prostaglandin E2 but was not induced by Poly I:C + TNF-α. In general, DC from patients had an intermediate maturity phenotype with a significantly higher expression of CD40 and CD54 compared with healthy donors. In vitro analyses showed an unimpaired capacity of the patient-derived DC for antigen-specific (cytomegalovirus, tetanus and keyhole limpet haemocyanin) T-cell stimulation, whereas the allostimulatory capacity of patient-derived DC was significantly decreased. These data suggest that patient-derived DC are more differentiated but are less sensitive to maturation-inducing agents than DC obtained from healthy individuals.