There is growing evidence that anti-angiogenic drugs will improve future therapies of diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and ocular neovascularisation. However, it is still uncertain which kind of substance, out of the large number of angiogenesis inhibitors, will prove to be a suitable agent to treat these human diseases. There are currently more than 30 angiogenesis inhibitors in clinical trials and a multitude of promising new candidates are under investigation in vitro and in animal models. Important therapeutic strategies are: suppression of activity of the major angiogenic regulators like vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF); inhibition of function of alphav-integrins and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs); the exploitation of endogenous anti-angiogenic molecules like angiostatin, endostatin or thrombospondin. Given the wide spectrum of diseases which could be treated by anti-angiogenic compounds, it is important for today's clinicians to understand their essential mode of action at a cellular and molecular level. Here we give an in-depth overview of the basic pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the different anti-angiogenic approaches used to date based on the most recent fundamental and clinical research data. The angiogenesis inhibitors in clinical trials are presented and promising future drug candidates are discussed.