Dendritic cell (DC) immunotherapy is a strong candidate for the treatment of incurable cancers especially malignant melanoma. Nevertheless, the proper guideline of DC immunotherapy does not exist. The absence of the guideline is also an obstacle to clinical trials of DC immunotherapy. So we conducted this study in order to develop an effective DC preparation method for immunotherapy in mouse malignant melanoma. Mouse bone marrow-derived DC were stimulated with tumour antigen alone or tumour antigen plus a cocktail (anti-CD40 antibody +TNF-α+ IL-1β) for 8, 24 or 48 h and the characteristics of these DC, such as surface molecules (CD40, CD80, CD86, MHC class II, CCR7), cytokines(IL-12, IFN-γ, and IL-10), DC-induced T cell proliferation in vitro, and the production of IFN-γ by those cells, were evaluated. Mice with melanoma were then treated with DC stimulated with tumour antigen alone and tumour antigen plus cocktail for 8 or 48 h. The tumour size and survival rate of these mice were then evaluated. (1) Beneficial clinical effects such as a reduction of tumour size and an increased survival rate were best observed in the group treated with DC stimulated for 8 h with tumour antigen plus cocktail. (2) The single prominent characteristic of DC stimulated for 8 h with tumour antigen plus cocktail was an elevated IL-12 secretion. The cytokine IL-12 was not secreted by other DC. Consequently, proper production of IL-12 was found to be an important requirement for DC used in immunotherapy of mouse melanoma.