Dendritic cells are the most potent antigen-presenting cells known; owing to their ability to stimulate antigen-specific cytolytic and memory T-cell responses, their use as cancer vaccines is rapidly increasing. While clinical trials provide evidence that dendritic cells vaccines are safe and elicit immunological responses in most patients, few complete tumor remissions have been reported and further technological advances are required. An effective dendritic cell vaccine must possess and maintain several characteristics: it must migrate to lymph nodes, have a mature, Th1-polarizing phenotype expressed stably after infusion and present antigen for sufficient time to produce a T-cell response capable of eliminating a tumor. While dendritic cells are readily matured ex vivo, their phenotype and fate after infusion are rarely evaluable; therefore, strategies to ensure that dendritic cells access lymphoid tissues and retain an immunostimulatory phenotype are required. In order to best exploit dendritic cells as vaccines, they may require genetic modification and combination with other strategies including adoptive T-cell transfer, inhibition of regulatory T cells or modulation of inflammatory pathways.