Therapeutic cancer vaccines, one form of active immunotherapy, have long been under investigation; consequently, several vaccine-based strategies have now moved from the bench to the clinical arena. Despite their tremendous promise, current vaccine strategies have shown only limited success in clinical settings, even in renal cell carcinoma (RCC), a prototypical malignancy for the application of immunotherapy. There is ample evidence that, especially in RCC, multiple immunosuppressive mechanisms exist that considerably dampen antitumor responses and weaken the activity of current immunotherapeutic regimens. Therefore, it will be necessary to reverse tumor-mediated immunosuppression before immunotherapies can successfully be applied. Recent insights into the nature and characteristics of the regulatory elements of the immune system have provided new opportunities to enhance vaccine-mediated antitumor immunity and, thereby, increase the chance for improving patient outcome. These new insights represent important considerations for the future design and application of more effective cancer vaccines against RCC and other cancers.