Proteolytic degradation of the extracellular matrix plays a crucial role in both cancer invasion and non-neoplastic tissue remodeling processes. In human cancers the components of matrix degrading protease systems (uPA, uPAR, PAI-1 and MMPs) can be expressed by either the non-neoplastic stromal cells, the cancer cells or both. Studies of the prognostic impact of these components in human cancer and the effect of targeted gene inactivation on cancer metastasis in mice support the assumption that proteases promote cancer progression, independent of whether they are expressed by cancer cells or stromal cells. The pattern of expression of components of protease systems is usually very similar in different cases of the same type of cancer, while it varies between different types of cancer. There are intriguing similarities between the cellular expression pattern of components of protease systems seen in cancer invasion and in certain types of non-neoplastic tissue remodeling. We propose that cancer invasion can be viewed as tissue remodeling gone out of control. The stromal cell involvement in cancer invasion represents a new paradigm with important implications for cancer pathophysiology and cancer therapy.