Hypoxia is a feature of most tumours, albeit with variable incidence and severity within a given patient population. It is a negative prognostic and predictive factor owing to its multiple contributions to chemoresistance, radioresistance, angiogenesis, vasculogenesis, invasiveness, metastasis, resistance to cell death, altered metabolism and genomic instability. Given its central role in tumour progression and resistance to therapy, tumour hypoxia might well be considered the best validated target that has yet to be exploited in oncology. However, despite an explosion of information on hypoxia, there are still major questions to be addressed if the long-standing goal of exploiting tumour hypoxia is to be realized. Here, we review the two main approaches, namely bioreductive prodrugs and inhibitors of molecular targets upon which hypoxic cell survival depends. We address the particular challenges and opportunities these overlapping strategies present, and discuss the central importance of emerging diagnostic tools for patient stratification in targeting hypoxia.