Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription (STATs) are a family of cytoplasmic proteins with roles as signal messengers and transcription factors that participate in normal cellular responses to cytokines and growth factors. Frequently, however, abnormal activity of certain STAT family members, particularly Stat3 and Stat5, is associated with a wide variety of human malignancies, including hematologic, breast, head and neck, and prostate cancers. Application of molecular biology and pharmacology tools in disease-relevant models has confirmed Stat3 as having a causal role in oncogenesis, and provided validation of Stat3 as a target for cancer drug discovery and therapeutic intervention. Furthermore, a constitutively-active mutant form of Stat3 is sufficient to induce oncogenic transformation of cells, which form tumors in vivo. Constitutive activation of Stat3 signaling is accompanied by upregulation of cyclin D1, c-Myc, and Bcl-x, changes consistent with subversion of normal cellular growth and survival control mechanisms. Block of constitutive Stat3 signaling results in growth inhibition and apoptosis of Stat3-positive tumor cells in vitro and in vivo. The observed dependence of certain tumors on constitutive Stat3 signaling for growth and survival has wide implications for cancer therapy, offering the potential for preferential tumor cell killing. This review evaluates constitutive Stat3 activation as a 'cancer-causing' factor, and proposes a number of molecular strategies for targeting Stat3 signaling for therapeutic intervention.