During the past decade, proof of the principle that peptide receptors can be used successfully for in vivo targeting of human cancers has been provided. The molecular basis for targeting rests on the in vitro observation that peptide receptors can be expressed in large quantities in certain tumors. The clinical impact is at the diagnostic level: in vivo receptor scintigraphy uses radiolabeled peptides for the localization of tumors and their metastases. It is also at the therapeutic level: peptide receptor radiotherapy of tumors emerges as a serious treatment option. Peptides linked to cytotoxic agents are also considered for therapeutic applications. The use of nonradiolabeled, noncytotoxic peptide analogs for long-term antiproliferative treatment of tumors appears promising for only a few tumor types, whereas the symptomatic treatment of neuroendocrine tumors by somatostatin analogs is clearly successful. The present review summarizes and critically evaluates the in vitro data on peptide and peptide receptor expression in human cancers. These data are considered to be the molecular basis for peptide receptor targeting of tumors. The paradigmatic peptide somatostatin and its receptors are extensively reviewed in the light of in vivo targeting of neuroendocrine tumors. The role of the more recently described targeting peptides vasoactive intestinal peptide, gastrin-releasing peptide, and cholecystokinin/gastrin is discussed. Other emerging and promising peptides and their respective receptors, including neurotensin, substance P, and neuropeptide Y, are introduced. This information relates to established and potential clinical applications in oncology.