In normal cells multiple microRNAs (miRNAs) converge to maintain a proper balance of various processes, including proliferation, differentiation and cell death. miRNA dysregulation can have profound cellular consequences, especially because individual miRNAs can bind to and regulate multiple mRNAs. In cancer, the loss of tumour-suppressive miRNAs enhances the expression of target oncogenes, whereas increased expression of oncogenic miRNAs (known as oncomirs) can repress target tumour suppressor genes. This realization has resulted in a quest to understand the pathways that are regulated by these miRNAs using in vivo model systems, and to comprehend the feasibility of targeting oncogenic miRNAs and restoring tumour-suppressive miRNAs for cancer therapy. Here we discuss progress in using mouse models to understand the roles of miRNAs in cancer and the potential for manipulating miRNAs for cancer therapy as these molecules make their way towards clinical trials.