Metastasis, the aggressive spread of a malignant tumor to distant organs, is a major cause of death in cancer patients. Despite this critical role in cancer outcomes, the molecular mechanisms that control this process are just beginning to be understood. Metastasis is largely dependent upon the ability of tumor cells to invade the barrier formed by the basement membrane and to migrate through neighboring tissues. This review will summarize the evidence that tumor cell invasion is the result of oncogene-mediated signal transduction pathways that control the expression of a specific set of genes that together mediate tumor cell invasion. We focus on the role of the transcription factor AP-1 to both induce the expression of genes that function as invasion effectors and repress other genes that function as invasion suppressors. This identifies AP-1 as a critical regulator of a complex program of gene expression that defines the invasive phenotype.