State-of-the-art treatment strategies have drastically ameliorated the outcome of patients affected by cancer. However, resistant and recurrent solid tumors are generally nonresponsive to conventional therapies. A central factor in the sequence of events that lead to cancer is an alteration in antitumor immune surveillance, which results in failure to recognize and eliminate the transformed tumor cell. A greater understanding of the dysregulation and evasion of the immune system in the evolution and progression of cancer provides the basis for improved therapies. Targeted strategies, such as T-cell therapy, not only generally spare normal tissues, but also use alternative antineoplastic mechanisms that synergize with other therapeutics. Despite encouraging success in hematologic malignancies, adaptive cellular therapies for solid tumors face unique challenges because of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, and the hurdle of T-cell trafficking within scarcely accessible tumor sites. This review provides a brief overview of current cellular therapeutic strategies for solid tumors, research carried out to increase efficacy and safety, and results from ongoing clinical trials. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.