Dendritic cells are the most potent antigen-presenting cells of the immune system and represent a promising tool in therapeutic vaccination against cancer. Immunotherapy applying ex vivo-generated and tumor antigen-loaded dentritic cells has been successfully introduced in clinical vaccination protocols and has proven to be feasible and effective in some patients. A better understanding of how dentritic cells succeed to induce and modulate immunity is necessary to optimally exploit dentritic cells in anticancer vaccines. The authors will review novel insights in antigen loading, activation and migration of dentritic cells and their impact on the application of ex vivo-generated dentritic cell vaccines. In addition, novel means to exploit dentritic cells in cancer vaccines by loading and activation of dentritic cells directly in situ and possible obstacles that should be overcome to induce long-lasting immunity in therapeutic settings will be discussed.