Abstract Ethnopharmacological relevance Phoradendron serotinum is commonly used in Mexican traditional medicine for the empirical treatment of cancer. However, there are no studies regarding the antitumoral or immunomodulatory activities of Phoradendron serotinum. Materials and methods The in vivo toxicity of ethanolic extracts of Phoradendron serotinum (PSE) was evaluated in mice according to the Lorke procedure. The in vitro immunomodulatory effects of PSE were evaluated estimating the effects of PSE on the pinocytosis, NO production and lysosomal enzyme activity in murine macrophages RAW 264.7. The effects of PSE on the proliferation of murine splenocytes and NK cell activity were also assayed. The cytotoxic effects on TC-1 (lung murine cancer cells) were evaluated using the MTT assay, whereas the apoptotic effect of PSE on TC-1 cells was evaluated using TUNEL assay. Also, different doses of PSE were injected intraperitoneally daily into C57BL/6 mice bearing tumors of TC-1 cells during 25 days. The growth and weight of tumors was measured. In addition, the levels of IL-2, IL-6, IL-12, IL-23 and IFN-γ in murine serum and supernatants of K562 cell—murine splenocyte cocultures were measured. Results PSE stimulated the proliferation, pinocytosis and lysosomal enzyme activity in murine macrophages with a similar potency than lypopolisaccharides 1μg/ml. In addition, PSE stimulated the proliferation of murine splenocytes and induced the NK cell activity. PSE showed cytotoxic (IC50=1.9μg/ml) and apoptotic effects against TC-1 cells. The LD50 was 125mg/kg by intraperitoneal route (i.p.) and 375mg/kg by oral route. PSE administrated at 1, 5 and 10mg/kg i.p. inhibited the tumor growth by 18%, 40% and 69%, respectively, in mice bearing TC-1 tumor. PSE increased the in vitro and in vivo release of IL-2, IL-6 and IFN-γ but lacked effect on IL-12 and IL-23 release. Conclusions Phoradendron serotinum shows moderate toxic effects in vivo, exerts cytotoxic and apoptotic effects on TC-1 cells. Phoradendron serotinum also has antitumor effects in mice bearing TC-1 tumor and induces immunomodulatory activities in vivo. The results suggest that antitumoral effects of PSE are related with the production of immunity-related cytokines.