Adoptive T-cell therapy involves the ex vivo enrichment and expansion of tumor-reactive T cells for infusion. As an immune-based approach, adoptive therapy has become an increasingly attractive modality for the treatment of patients with cancer due to its potential for high specificity, non-cross resistance with conventional therapies, and promise of long-term immunoprotection. In recent years, a resurgence in discoveries underlying T-cell recognition, tumor immune evasion, and T-cell memory and differentiation coupled with the development of several enabling technologies have facilitated a renewed focus in the field of adoptive therapy and its transition to the clinical arena as a treatment modality for patients with cancer. In this review, endogenous T cells derived from peripheral blood or tumor sites will be presented as a source of effector cells for adoptive therapy and strategies to isolate, manipulate, and enhance the function of antigen-specific T cells in vitro and to augment their in vivo efficacy and persistence by host immunomodulation are presented in the context of an ever-increasing inventory of preclinical and clinically available reagents. Optimizing the combination of adoptive cellular therapy and other immune-based and conventional approaches will herald a new generation of research and clinical opportunities for cancer immunotherapy.