Microvesicles are generated by the outward budding and fission of membrane vesicles from the cell surface. Recent studies suggest that microvesicle shedding is a highly regulated process that occurs in a spectrum of cell types and, more frequently, in tumor cells. Microvesicles have been widely detected in various biological fluids including peripheral blood, urine and ascitic fluids, and their function and composition depend on the cells from which they originate. By facilitating the horizontal transfer of bioactive molecules such as proteins, RNAs and microRNAs, they are now thought to have vital roles in tumor invasion and metastases, inflammation, coagulation, and stem-cell renewal and expansion. This Commentary summarizes recent literature on the properties and biogenesis of microvesicles and their potential role in cancer progression.