During the past two decades, invasive fungal infections have emerged as a major threat to immunocompromised hosts. Patients with neoplastic diseases are at significant risk for such infections as a result of their underlying illness and its therapy. Aspergillus, Candida, Cryptococcus and emerging pathogens, such as the zygomycetes, dark walled fungi, Trichosporon and Fusarium, are largely opportunists, causing infection when host defences are breached. The immune response varies with respect to the fungal species and morphotype encountered. The risk for particular infections differs, depending upon which aspect of immunity is impaired. This article reviews the current understanding of the role and relative importance of innate and adaptive immunity to common and emerging fungal pathogens. An understanding of the host response to these organisms is important in decisions regarding use of currently available antifungal therapies and in the design of new therapeutic modalities.