The HER-2/neu oncogenic protein is a tumor antigen. Some patients with cancer have a preexistent immune response directed against the HER-2/neu protein. Effective cancer vaccines targeting HER-2/neu will be able to boost this immunity to potentially therapeutic levels. In addition, HER-2/neu-directed monoclonal antibody therapy has been effective in eradicating malignancy in animal models and has shown benefit in the treatment of human HER-2/neu-overexpressing cancers. This review outlines studies that define HER-2/neu-specific immunity in patients with cancer and overviews the current vaccine strategies for generating or augmenting neu-specific immunity. The potential problems associated with eliciting HER-2/neu-specific immunity are addressed, including the question of precipitating autoimmune toxicity against this "self" -protein and the mechanisms of immunological escape that may play a role in preventing effective function of the HER-2/neu-specific immune response. Finally, antibody-based HER-2/neu-directed therapies are overviewed. HER-2/neu is a prototype antigen for groups investigating innovative modifications of monoclonal antibody technology, and cutting edge therapies targeting this antigen are being contemplated for clinical use in the treatment of human malignancy. Immune-based treatments designed to target the HER-2/neu oncogenic protein will soon give the clinical oncologist new therapeutic weapons, directed against a biologically relevant tumor-related protein, with which to fight cancer.