Embryonic development and tumor progression both require the exquisite coordination of programs for extracellular matrix (ECM) formation and remodeling, and those for angiogenesis and vascular development. Without a vascular supply the normal tissue or tumor is limited in size and organization. Without ECM remodeling the alteration of tissue and tumor boundaries and cellular migrations are limited. Recent insights into the molecular mechanisms regulating the extracellular environment of the growing embryonic tissue or tumors have implicated proteases, the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in particular, in both the process of ECM remodeling and angiogenesis, and in a potential causal relationship between these processes. This review focuses on the roles that MMPs play in regulating three processes in which both proteolysis and vascular development are tightly coordinated: embryo implantation, bone development and tumor progression.