Summary Diverse immunotherapy approaches have achieved success in controlling individual aspects of immune responses in animal models. Transfer of such immunotherapies to clinical trials has obtained some success in patients, with clinical responses observed or effective antigen specific immune responses achieved, but has had limited impact on patient survival. Key elements required to generate de novo cell-mediated antitumour immune responses in vivo include recruitment of antigen-presenting cells to the tumour site, loading these cells with antigen, and their migration and maturation to full antigen-presenting function. In addition, it is essential for antigen-specific T cells to locate the tumour to mediate cytotoxicity, emphasizing the need for local inflammation to target effector cell recruitment. We review those therapies that involve the tumour site as a target and source of antigen for the initiation of immune responses, and discuss strategies to generate and co-ordinate an optimal cell-mediated immune response to control tumours locally.