During the past two decades, interleukin-12 (IL-12) has emerged as one of the most potent cytokines in mediating antitumor activity in a variety of preclinical models. Through pleiotropic effects on different immune cells that form the tumor microenvironment, IL-12 establishes a link between innate and adaptive immunity that involves different immune effector cells and cytokines depending on the type of tumor or the affected tissue. The robust antitumor response exerted by IL-12, however, has not yet been successfully translated into the clinics. The majority of clinical trials involving treatment with IL-12 failed to show sustained antitumor responses and were associated to toxic side effects. Here we discuss the therapeutic effects of IL-12 from preclinical to clinical studies, and will highlight promising strategies to take advantage of the antitumor activity of IL-12 while limiting adverse effects.