The ability to grow and differentiate dendritic cells (DC) ex vivo has allowed their genetic manipulation to enhance immune activation against tumor antigens. Gene engineering of DC can be achieved with a variety of physical methods and using different viral vectors. RNA or DNA transfection, either alone (naked), coated with liposomes or using electroporation or gene guns leads to T cell activation while transgene expression is frequently undetectable. Adenoviral and retroviral vectors have proven to be highly efficient in DC genetic modification, and have been widely used in preclinical models. Other vectors like lentivirus, poxvirus, herpes virus and adeno-associated virus (AAV) can also lead to foreign transgene expression in DC leading to immune cell activation. DC have been genetically engineered to provide constitutive and high level of tumor antigen expression or to introduce genes that further enhance their immune stimulatory ability. The promising results from preclinical animal models and from in vitro human immune cell culture systems have provided a strong rationale to initiate pilot clinical trials. Recently published or communicated clinical experiences and ongoing trials have used defined tumor antigen RNA transfection for prostate carcinoma and melanoma, liposome-encoated DNA transfection for breast or pancreatic cancer, adenoviral vector tumor antigen gene modification for melanoma and small cell lung cancer, and poxvirus-mediated expression of costimulatory molecules for colon carcinoma. These preliminary experiences suggest that genetically modified DC can safely induce T cell responses but few clinical responses.