Dendritic cells (DCs) have been used successfully for inducing effective anti-tumor immune responses in advanced cancer patients undergoing tumor-specific immunotherapy. Appropriate antigen pulsing is a crucial parameter for optimizing the efficacy of immunotherapy as well as anti-tumor protection therapy. Using a murine colon cancer model, we evaluated the anti-tumor efficacy of four different preparations of DC vaccines that contained either a whole tumor or its derivatives, including i) DCs pulsed with tumor lysate, ii) DCs pulsed with necrotic tumor cells, iii) DCs pulsed with apoptotic tumor cells, and iv) DC-tumor cell fusion hybrids. Our data show that DC-tumor cell fusion hybrids and DCs pulsed with irradiated apoptotic tumor cells were more potent than DCs with freeze-thawed necrotic tumor cells for the induction of protective anti-tumor responses. The vaccination of DCs pulsed with tumor lysate failed to elicit any anti-tumor effect. In animals administered with higher doses of a tumor-cell challenge, DC-tumor cell fusion hybrids elicited the most effective anti-tumor response. Among the preparations tested, mice immunized with DC-tumor cell fusion hybrids resulted in the greatest induction of cytotoxicity as measured by the cytotoxic T lymphocyte activity of both the splenocytes and the Thy1.2-positive T lymphocytes. Furthermore, the in vitro production of IFN-gamma polarized to the Th1 cytokine responses was highest in the splenocytes derived from mice vaccinated with DC-tumor cell fusion hybrids. Our results suggest that DC-tumor cell fusion hybrids are more potent inducers of protection against solid tumors, such as colon cancer, than other antigen-loading strategies using whole tumor cell materials.