Natural killer T (NKT) cells are innate lymphocytes that share receptor structures and functions with conventional T cells and natural killer cells. NKT cells are specific for glycolipid antigens bound by the major histocompatibility complex class I-like protein CD1d. One striking property of NKT cells is their capacity to rapidly produce large amounts of cytokines in response to T-cell receptor engagement, suggesting that activated NKT cells can modulate adaptive immune responses. Recent pre-clinical studies have revealed significant efficacy of NKT-cell ligands such as the glycolipid alpha-galactosylceramide for treatment of metastatic cancers and infections, and for prevention of autoimmune diseases. These findings suggest that appropriate stimulation of NKT cells could be exploited for prevention or treatment of human diseases.