The transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) signaling pathway is a key player in metazoan biology, and its misregulation can result in tumor development. The regulatory cytokine TGFbeta exerts tumor-suppressive effects that cancer cells must elude for malignant evolution. Yet, paradoxically, TGFbeta also modulates processes such as cell invasion, immune regulation, and microenvironment modification that cancer cells may exploit to their advantage. Consequently, the output of a TGFbeta response is highly contextual throughout development, across different tissues, and also in cancer. The mechanistic basis and clinical relevance of TGFbeta's role in cancer is becoming increasingly clear, paving the way for a better understanding of the complexity and therapeutic potential of this pathway.