Regulatory T cells (Treg) encompass a heterogeneous family of T cells implicated in maintenance of tolerance to self antigens. Treg cells might be qualitatively and/or quantitatively deficient in human autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, graft versus host disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, type I diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. In animal models of autoimmunity, infusion of ex vivo-expanded Treg cells and/or in vivo enhancement of Treg cell suppressor function by pharmacological agents and cytokines attenuate disease manifestations and restore tolerance. However, Treg cells represent a double-edged sword, as Treg cells with specificity for tumour-associated antigens contribute to cancer pathogenesis and progression. In vivo depletion of Treg cells by monoclonal antibodies and/or selected drugs is an encouraging therapeutic strategy which improves tumour eradication in animal models of cancer. In addition, elimination and/or functional inactivation of Treg cells might boost anti-tumour immunity in tumour-bearing hosts receiving anti-cancer vaccination. The present review discusses Treg cell manipulation as a novel therapeutic strategy in cancer and autoimmunity, conditions characterised by a common regulatory basis.