Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), isolated 30 years ago, is a multifunctional cytokine playing a key role in apoptosis and cell survival as well as in inflammation and immunity. Although named for its antitumor properties, TNF has been implicated in a wide spectrum of other diseases. The current use of TNF in cancer is in the regional treatment of locally advanced soft tissue sarcomas and metastatic melanomas and other irresectable tumors of any histology to avoid amputation of the limb. It has been demonstrated in the isolated limb perfusion setting that TNF-alpha acts synergistically with cytostatic drugs. The interaction of TNF-alpha with TNF receptor 1 and receptor 2 (TNFR-1, TNFR-2) activates several signal transduction pathways, leading to the diverse functions of TNF-alpha. The signaling molecules of TNFR-1 have been elucidated quite well, but regulation of the signaling remains unclear. Besides these molecular insights, laboratory experiments in the past decade have shed light upon TNF-alpha action during tumor treatment. Besides extravasation of erythrocytes and lymphocytes, leading to hemorrhagic necrosis, TNF-alpha targets the tumor-associated vasculature (TAV) by inducing hyperpermeability and destruction of the vascular lining. This results in an immediate effect of selective accumulation of cytostatic drugs inside the tumor and a late effect of destruction of the tumor vasculature. In this review, covering TNF-alpha from the molecule to the clinic, we provide an overview of the use of TNF-alpha in cancer starting with molecular insights into TNFR-1 signaling and cellular mechanisms of the antitumor activities of TNF-alpha and ending with clinical response. In addition, possible factors modulating TNF-alpha actions are discussed.