Interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) is a pleiotropic cytokine belonging to type I IFN, currently used in cancer patients. Early studies in mouse tumor models have shown the importance of host immune mechanisms in the generation of a long-lasting antitumor response to type I IFN. Recent studies have underscored new immunomodulatory effects of IFN-alpha, including activities on T and dendritic cells, which may explain IFN-induced tumor immunity. Reports on new immune correlates in cancer patients responding to IFN-alpha represent additional evidence on the importance of the interactions of IFN-alpha with the immune system for the generation of durable antitumor response. This knowledge, together with results from studies on genetically modified tumor cells expressing IFN-alpha, suggest novel strategies for using these cytokines in cancer immunotherapy and in particular the use of IFN-alpha as an immune adjuvant for the development of cancer vaccines.