The ability to measure antigen-specific T cells at the single-cell level by intracellular cytokine staining (ICS) is a promising immunomonitoring tool and is extensively applied in the evaluation of immunotherapy of cancer. The protocols used to detect antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell responses generally work for the detection of antigen-specific T cells in samples that have undergone at least one round of in vitro pre-stimulation. Application of a common protocol but now using long peptides as antigens was not suitable to simultaneously detect antigen-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells directly ex vivo in cryopreserved samples. CD8 T-cell reactivity to monocytes pulsed with long peptides as antigens ranged between 5 and 25 % of that observed against monocytes pulsed with a direct HLA class I fitting minimal CTL peptide epitope. Therefore, we adapted our ICS protocol and show that the use of tenfold higher concentration of long peptides to load APC, the use of IFN-α and poly(I:C) to promote antigen processing and improve T-cell stimulation, does allow for the ex vivo detection of low-frequency antigen-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells in an HLA-independent setting. While most of the improvements were related to increasing the ability to measure CD8+ T-cell reactivity following stimulation with long peptides to at least 50 % of the response detected when using a minimal peptide epitope, the final analysis of blood samples from vaccinated patients successfully showed that the adapted ICS protocol also increases the ability to ex vivo detect low-frequency p53-specific CD4+ T-cell responses in cryopreserved PBMC samples.