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So far, a number of tumour-associated antigens (TAAs), such as heat shock proteins, alpha-fetoprotein, carcino-embryonic antigen and others have been identified in a variety of malignant tumours. Differences in the expression levels of TAAs in cancers compared with normal cells have led to these antigens being investigated as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers or exciting targets in cancer treatment. Here, we systematically list the current representative TAAs to shed some light on current approaches and challenges for their anti-cancer application in cancer therapy. In this review, we discuss the ongoing pre-clinical studies and clinical development of TAAs in human cancers, and the potential application of these TAAs in the diagnosis and prognosis for cancer treatment.