T-cell-based immunotherapies hold promise for the treatment of many types of cancer, with three approved products for B-cell malignancies and a large pipeline of treatments in clinical trials. However, there are several challenges to their broad implementation. These include insufficient expansion of adoptively transferred T cells, inefficient trafficking of T cells into solid tumours, decreased T-cell activity due to a hostile tumour microenvironment and the loss of target antigen expression. Together, these factors restrict the number of therapeutically active T cells engaging with tumours. Nanomaterials are uniquely suited to overcome these challenges, as they can be rationally designed to enhance T-cell expansion, navigate complex physical barriers and modulate tumour microenvironments. Here, we present an overview of nanomaterials that have been used to overcome clinical barriers to T-cell-based immunotherapies and provide our outlook of this emerging field at the interface of cancer immunotherapy and nanomaterial design.