Despite some interesting pilot experiments more than a century ago, nucleic acid has only recently been added to the list of agents used for the prevention and therapy of cancer. Two distinct features of nucleic acids are used for this purpose: in DNA and RNA vaccines, genetic information for pathogen- or tumor-derived antigens is delivered to the host who then produces the encoded antigen and initiates an immune response. In DNA adjuvants, immunostimulatory sequences (CpG motifs) present in DNA of bacterial origin are used. Such sequences are delivered in the form of oligonucleotides or within the sequence of DNA vaccine. In addition, CpG oligonucleotides by themselves have successfully been used to stimulate the immune system in an antigen-independent manner for the treatment of experimental tumors. DNA and RNA vaccines for the treatment and prevention of cancer and other diseases suffer from two some shortcomings: insufficient immunogenicity and - in the case of RNA - low stability. A variety of strategies are being explored to improve the efficacy of nucleic acid vaccines (genetic vaccines) especially for self-antigens in the case of cancer. Among the most recent improvements are self-replicating RNA vaccines and replicase-based DNA-vaccines in which antigen expression is under the control of an alphaviral replicase. Despite highly promising results in many animal tumor models the efficacy of nucleic acid vaccines and adjuvants in the clinic remains to be seen.