Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) are a family of structurally related proteinases most widely recognized for their ability to degrade extracellular matrix, although recent investigations have demonstrated other biologic functions for these enzymes. MMP are typically not constitutively expressed, but are regulated by: (1) cytokines, growth factors, and cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions that control gene expression; (2) activation of their proenzyme form; and (3) the presence of MMP inhibitors [tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases, (TIMP)]. MMP have important roles in normal processes including development, wound healing, mammary gland, and uterine involution, but are also involved in angiogenesis, tumor growth, and metastasis. Angiogenesis, characteristically defined as the establishment of new vessels from pre-existing vasculature, is required for biologic processes such as wound healing and pathologic processes such as arthritis, tumor growth, and metastasis. Blocking of MMP activity has been studied for potential therapeutic efficacy in controlling such pathologic processes. Synthetic MMP inhibitors, most notably the hydroxymates, have been engineered for this purpose and are presently in clinical trial. These inhibitors may have broad versus specific MMP inhibitory activity. As increased non-matrix degrading capabilities of MMP are recognized, however, i.e., cytokine activation, processing of proteins to molecules of distinct biologic function, it becomes less clear whether the nonselective inhibition of MMP activity for all pathologic processes involving MMP is appropriate. This review focuses upon the contribution of MMP to the process of tumor invasion and angiogenesis, and discusses the design and use of MMP inhibitors as therapeutic agents in these processes.