Immunotherapy has become a standard approach for cancer management, through the use of cytokines (eg: interleukin-2) and monoclonal antibodies. Cancer vaccines hold promise as another form of immunotherapy, and there has been substantial progress in identifying shared antigens recognized by T cells, in developing vaccine approaches that induce antigen-specific T cell responses in cancer patients, and in developing new technology for monitoring immune responses in various human tissue compartments. Dramatic clinical regressions of human solid tumors have occurred with some cancer vaccines, but the rate of those responses remains low. This article is part of a 2-part point:counterpoint series on peptide vaccines and adoptive therapy approaches for cancer. The current status of cancer vaccination, and associated challenges, are discussed. Emphasis is placed on the need to increase our knowledge of cancer immunobiology, as well as to improve monitoring of cellular immune function after vaccination. Progress in both areas will facilitate development of effective cancer vaccines, as well as of adoptive therapy. Effective cancer vaccines promise to be useful for treatment and prevention of cancer at low cost and with low morbidity.