Adoptive transfer of antigen-specific T lymphocytes is a powerful therapy for the treatment of opportunistic disease and some virus-associated malignancies such as Epstein-Barr virus-positive post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. However, this strategy has been less successful in patients with nonviral cancers owing to their many and varied immune evasion mechanisms. These mechanisms include downregulation of target antigens and antigen-presenting machinery, secretion of inhibitory cytokines, and recruitment of regulatory immune cells to the tumor site. With increased understanding of the tumor microenvironment and the behavior and persistence of ex vivo-manipulated, adoptively transferred T cells, two novel approaches for increasing the efficacy of T cell therapy have been proposed. The first involves genetic modification of tumor-specific T cells to improve their biological function, for example by augmenting their ability to recognize tumor cells or their resistance to tumor-mediated immunosuppression. The second requires modifications to the host environment to improve the homeostatic expansion of infused T cells or to eliminate inhibitory T cell subsets. In this review, we discuss current, promising strategies to improve adoptive T cell therapy for the treatment of cancer.