The classification of breast cancer into molecular subtypes with distinctive gene expression signatures that predict treatment response and prognosis has ushered in a new era of personalized medicine for this remarkably heterogeneous and deadly disease. Basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) is a particularly aggressive molecular subtype defined by a robust cluster of genes expressed by epithelial cells in the basal or outer layer of the adult mammary gland. BLBC is a major clinical challenge because these tumors are prevalent in young woman, often relapsing rapidly. Additionally, most (but not all) basal-like tumors lack expression of steroid hormone receptors (estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor) and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, limiting targeted therapeutic options for these predominantly triple-negative breast cancers. This minireview will focus on new insights into the molecular etiology of these poor-prognosis tumors that underlie their intrinsic genomic instability, deregulated cell proliferation and apoptosis, and invasive tumor biology. We will also review ongoing efforts to translate these fundamental insights into improved therapies for women with BLBC.