Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common primary malignancy affecting the kidney. In the past decade, several well-designed clinical trials have shifted the treatment paradigm for RCC to favor targeted therapies as first-line agents. Recognition of the immunogenic nature of RCC has also resulted in the development of immunotherapy approaches with high-dose IL-2 treatment being the best established and associated with durable disease control. The lack of defined antigens in RCC has hindered more specific vaccine development. TroVax(®) is a novel vaccine based on a modified vaccinia virus Ankara vector engineered to express the 5T4 tumor-associated antigen, found on over 95% of clear cell and papillary RCC tumors. The safety and efficacy of TroVax has been evaluated in several Phase I/II clinical trials and in a multicenter Phase III trial. This article will discuss the clinical background of RCC, the rationale for TroVax development, results of several TroVax clinical trials and future directions for optimizing TroVax therapy in patients with RCC and other cancers.