During tumorigenesis, selective pressure drives tumor cells to develop several strategies that enable growth and propagation. Transformed cells produce or elicit factors that provide growth signals, nutrients and a favorable tumor microenvironment. In addition, tumor cells can evade elimination by the immune system by several mechanisms, including developing resistance to T cell-induced apoptosis or the local expression of immune-modulatory molecules and cytokines. Recently, we described a role for the cytokine interleukin (IL)-23 in promoting tumor incidence and growth. In addition, IL-23 not only stimulates neutrophil and macrophage infiltration, but also promotes angiogenesis and inflammatory mediators in the tumor microenvironment. IL-23 antagonizes IL-12 and interferon gamma, both of which are essential cytokines for cytotoxic immune responses, and controls the influx and activity of anti-tumor effector lymphocytes. We suggest that IL-23 inflicts a repurposing of the adaptive cytotoxic effector response away from anti-tumor immunity ('sword') and towards proinflammatory and proangiogenic effector pathways that nourish the tumor ('plowshare'). Consequently, IL-23 enables the persistence of the recognized tumor cells, accompanied by tumor-associated inflammation. This concept can explain tumor growth in the presence of large quantities of tumor-specific T cells.