Adoptive cell immunotherapy is a novel tool in the fight against cancer. Serving both effector and memory functions for the immune system, T cells make an obvious candidate for adoptive cell immunotherapy. By modifying native T cells with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), these cells can theoretically be targeted against any extracellular antigen. To date, the best-studied and clinically validated CAR T cells recognize CD19, a cell surface molecule on B cells and B cell malignancies. These CD19-directed T cells have shown clinical utility in chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, with some patients achieving long-term disease remissions after treatment. This review will briefly summarize the current data supporting the use of adoptively transferred CAR T cells for the treatment of CD19-positive malignancies. Given these exciting results, the Food and Drug Administration has granted a ‘breakthrough' designation for several variations of CD19-directed CAR T cells for treatment of adult and pediatric relapsed/refractory ALL.