Colorectal cancer is one of the five leading causes of cancer mortality worldwide. The mechanisms of pathogen clearance, inflammation and regulation by T cells in the healthy bowel are also important in controlling tumor growth. The majority of studies analyzing T cells and their relationship to colorectal tumor growth have focused on individual T cell markers or gene clusters and thus the complexity of the T cell response contributing to the growth of the tumor is not clear. We have studied the T cells in colorectal cancer patients and have defined a unique T cell signature for colorectal tumor tissue. Using a novel analytical flow cytometric approach in concert with confocal microscopy, we have shown that the tumor has a lower frequency of effector T cells (CD69+), but a higher frequency of both regulatory (CD25hi Foxp3+) and inflammatory T cells (IL-17+) compared with associated nontransformed bowel tissue. We have also identified minor populations of T cells expressing conventional markers of both inflammatory and regulatory T cells (CD4+IL-17+Foxp3+) in the tumor tissue. These cells may represent intermediate populations or they may dictate an inflammatory versus regulatory function in surrounding T cells. Together, these data describe an immune microenvironment in colorectal cancer unique to the tumor tissue and distinct from the surrounding healthy bowel tissue, and this distinct environment is reflected by a gradient of T cells expressing markers of multiple T cell populations. These findings may be used to improve diagnosis and prognosis of colorectal cancer patients.