During the last decade, a large number of human tumour antigens have been identified. These antigens are classified as tumour-specific shared antigens, tissue-specific differentiation antigens, overexpressed antigens, tumour antigens resulting from mutations, viral antigens and fusion proteins. Antigens recognised by effectors of immune system are potential targets for antigen-specific cancer immunotherapy. However, most tumour antigens are self-proteins and are generally of low immunogenicity and the immune response elicited towards these tumour antigens is not always effective. Strategies to induce and enhance the tumour antigen-specific response are needed. This review will summarise the approaches to discovery of tumour antigens, the current status of tumour antigens, and their potential application to cancer treatment.