Human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecule downregulation occurs frequently in many cancers, and this abnormality might adversely affect the clinical course of cancer and the outcome of T-cell-based immunotherapy. Mutations in the HLA class I genes themselves, abnormalities in their regulation and/or defects in HLA class I-dependent antigen processing can underlie HLA class I downregulation. These mutations modulate the susceptibility of tumor cells to in vitro lysis by cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and natural killer (NK) cells. Immune selection of CTL- and NK-cell-resistant tumor cells might explain the rapid progression and poor prognosis of cancers that exhibit HLA class I downregulation. These findings provide compelling evidence that HLA class I downregulation represents a significant challenge for the successful application of T-cell-based immunotherapy of cancer.