The authors performed a variety of lymphocyte-stimulation tests and quantified several lymphocyte subpopulations in 73 healthy controls and 72 patients with advanced cancer who were no longer receiving anticancer therapy. As a group, cancer patients had fewer lymphocytes and helper cells, but a greater proportion of suppressor cells and Ia+ cells than controls. The ratio of helper to suppressor cells was lower in the cancer group. Uptake of 125I-uridine was markedly depressed in cancer patients in the face of stimulation with various plant lectins, foreign lymphocytes, and varicella-zoster antigen. There was little correlation between any of the stimulation tests and any of the lymphocyte subpopulation proportions or numbers. The two tests that were most frequently abnormally low among the cancer patients were percent lymphocytes and number of helper cells (81% each). The most frequently abnormal functional assay in patients was pokeweed mitogen stimulation (59%). Three separate statistical methods selected the combination of percent lymphocytes, percent Ia+ cells, percent suppressor cells, number of helper cells, and pokeweed mitogen stimulation as being the best predictors of cancer/immunoincompetent status. This study confirms the breadth of immunoincompetence in advanced cancer patients as defined by in vitro techniques. A smaller battery of tests can be useful in monitoring the immune status of such patients, especially during therapy with proposed immune modulators.