The discovery of multiple costimulatory cell surface molecules that influence the course of T cell activation has increased our appreciation of the complexity of the T cell response. It remains clear, however, that CD28 and cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) are the critical costimulatory receptors that determine the early outcome of stimulation through the T cell antigen receptor (TCR). Details of how the T cell integrates TCR stimulation with the costimulatory signals of CD28 and the inhibitory signals of CTLA-4 remain to be established, but unique features of the cell biology of CTLA-4 provide important insights into its function. We summarize here recent findings that suggest a previously unrecognized role for CTLA-4 in the regulation of T cell responses. We also describe preclinical and clinical results that indicate manipulation of CTLA-4 has considerable promise as a strategy for the immunotherapy of cancer.