Traditionally, cancer vaccines have used whole tumour cells administered in adjuvant or infected with viruses to increase the immunogenicity of the cells. With the identification of tumour-associated and tumour-specific antigens (TAA, TSA), antigen and epitope-specific vaccines have been designed. Compared to tumour cell vaccines, antigen and epitope vaccines are more specific and easier to produce in large quantities but may display lower immunogenicity and lead to the in vivo selection of antigen or epitope-negative escape tumour variant cells. The optimal vaccine will elicit both humoral and cellular immunity in the patients as both parameters have been positively correlated with the induction of beneficial clinical responses. The choice of adjuvant, costimulation and delivery mode greatly determines the outcome of vaccinations and may favour the induction of T-cell responses of T helper (Th)1, Th2, or both Th1 and Th2 types. Animal models of TAA vaccines must take into account the normal tissue expression of TAA, which may induce immunological tolerance to TAA. With the identification of homologues of human TAA in animals, novel experimental models of cancer vaccines which mimic the condition in patients are now available. Several vaccines comprising tumour cells, TAA or anti-idiotypic antibodies mimicking TAA have recently entered phase III of clinical evaluation.