Experimental and clinical evidence is here assembled in support of the concept that the development of a solid tumor progresses from a prevascular phase to a vascular phase. The prevascular tumor does not induce angiogenesis, is limited in size, and rarely metastasizes. The vascularized tumor induces host microvessels to undergo angiogenesis, has the potential to rapidly expand its cell population, and has a propensity to metastasize. Thus, angiogenesis is necessary but not sufficient for tumor growth and metastasis. Neovascularization of a tumor requires that a critical number of its cells have switched to the angiogenic phenotype. The mechanisms by which tumor cells become angiogenic, subjects of current study, are reviewed here. At least two general categories are recognized: (i) angiogenic activity arises from the tumor cell itself in the form of the release of angiogenic molecules such as basic fibroblast growth factor; (ii) angiogenic activity arises from host cells recruited by the tumor (e.g. macrophages), or is mobilized from the extracellular matrix, or requires concomitant loss of physiological inhibition of endothelial cell proliferation. Accumulating evidence indicates that for most tumors, the switch to the angiogenic phenotype depends upon the outcome of a balance between angiogenic stimulators and angiogenic inhibitors, both of which may be produced by tumor cells and perhaps by certain host cells.