A murine osteosarcoma in which the number of tumor cells can be continually monitored by measuring the circulating plasma alkaline phosphatase levels was used to determine the effect of tumor burden on peripheral blood and splenic lymphocyte response to mitogens. In animals with tumors of different sizes, the pattern of response of the peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) to mitogens is different from that of splenic lymphocytes. PBL response to ConA, PHA, and LPS was initially depressed, but response to PHA and LPS recovered later, as the tumor burden exceeded 6%. However, the recovery of LPS response was not consistent, in that recovery was not seen when the tumor burden was 5%-6%. Response to ConA remained depressed. Splenic lymphocytes showed progressive decline of PHA response. Treatment of tumor-bearing mice with 2-mercaptoethanol (2-ME) restored the ConA response of PBL in 56% of mice. Treatment with 2-ME did not restore PBL response to PHA or LPS. © 1982 Springer-Verlag.