During the last two decades, several approaches for the activation of the immune system against cancer have been developed. These include rather unselective maneuvers such as the systemic administration of immunostimulatory agents (e.g., interleukin-2) as well as targeted interventions, encompassing highly specific monoclonal antibodies, vaccines and cell-based therapies. Among the latter, adoptive cell transfer (ACT) involves the selection of autologous lymphocytes with antitumor activity, their expansion/activation ex vivo, and their reinfusion into the patient, often in the context of lymphodepleting regimens (to minimize endogenous immunosuppression). Such autologous cells can be isolated from tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes or generated by manipulating circulating lymphocytes for the expression of tumor-specific T-cell receptors. In addition, autologous lymphocytes can be genetically engineered to prolong their in vivo persistence, to boost antitumor responses and/or to minimize side effects. ACT has recently been shown to be associated with a consistent rate of durable regressions in melanoma and renal cell carcinoma patients and holds great promises in several other oncological settings. In this Trial Watch, we will briefly review the scientific rationale behind ACT and discuss the progress of recent clinical trials evaluating the safety and effectiveness of adoptive cell transfer as an anticancer therapy.