The research area of tumor microenvironment is considered, at present, to be an important factor in tumorigenesis and especially in tumor progression. The present mini review is focused on three principles characterizing the nature of the tumor microenvironment. We first discuss the regulatory functions of the tumor microenvironment and the complexity of the combinatorial signaling pathways operating in it. We then address the aspect that the tumor microenvironment incorporates both pro and anti malignancy factors and that a balance between these factors regulates tumor progression. Thirdly we provide evidence that the non-tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment and their products may be different from those of their counterparts residing in non-tumor microenvironments. The conclusion of this mini review is that the tumor microenvironment, by exerting regulatory functions and selective pressures drives cancer cells into one of several molecular evolution pathways thereby determining and shaping their malignancy phenotype.