Cancer immunotherapy attempts to harness the power and specificity of the immune system to treat tumours. The molecular identification of human cancer-specific antigens has allowed the development of antigen-specific immunotherapy. In one approach, autologous antigen-specific T cells are expanded ex vivo and then re-infused into patients. Another approach is through vaccination; that is, the provision of an antigen together with an adjuvant to elicit therapeutic T cells in vivo. Owing to their properties, dendritic cells (DCs) are often called 'nature's adjuvants' and thus have become the natural agents for antigen delivery. After four decades of research, it is now clear that DCs are at the centre of the immune system owing to their ability to control both immune tolerance and immunity. Thus, DCs are an essential target in efforts to generate therapeutic immunity against cancer.