The malignant progression of tumors is thought to be related to the expression of oncogenes and loss of expression of tumor suppressor gene. These factors are intrinsic to the cancer cells themselves. However, carcinomas are also infiltrated by host cells (fibroblasts, endothelial cells, inflammatory cells) and surrounded by an extracellular matrix which is extensively remodeled. The extracellular matrix components and infiltrating host cells provide a microenvironment that conditions both tumor progression and the metastatic process. Transplantation of human tumors into athymic nude mice has become an important experimental approach to study the biology of human cancers. The different models developed so far are beginning to elucidate the role of matrix molecules, growth factors and enzymes as well as fibroblasts in tumor progression. These animal models are likely to provide a useful tool to evaluate new antitumor treatments.