Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and, despite new targeted therapies and immunotherapies, many patients with advanced-stage- or high-risk cancers still die, owing to metastatic disease. Adoptive T-cell therapy, involving the autologous or allogeneic transplant of tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes or genetically modified T cells expressing novel T-cell receptors or chimeric antigen receptors, has shown promise in the treatment of cancer patients, leading to durable responses and, in some cases, cure. Technological advances in genomics, computational biology, immunology and cell manufacturing have brought the aspiration of individualised therapies for cancer patients closer to reality. This new era of cell-based individualised therapeutics challenges the traditional standards of therapeutic interventions and provides opportunities for a paradigm shift in our approach to cancer therapy. Invited speakers at a 2020 symposium discussed three areas-cancer genomics, cancer immunology and cell-therapy manufacturing-that are essential to the effective translation of T-cell therapies in the treatment of solid malignancies. Key advances have been made in understanding genetic intratumour heterogeneity, and strategies to accurately identify neoantigens, overcome T-cell exhaustion and circumvent tumour immunosuppression after cell-therapy infusion are being developed. Advances are being made in cell-manufacturing approaches that have the potential to establish cell-therapies as credible therapeutic options. T-cell therapies face many challenges but hold great promise for improving clinical outcomes for patients with solid tumours.