During development and tissue homeostasis, patterns of cellular organization, proliferation and movement are highly choreographed. Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) have a crucial role in establishing these patterns. Individual cells and tissues exhibit tight spatial control of the RTKs that they express, enabling tissue morphogenesis and function, while preventing unwarranted cell division and migration that can contribute to tumorigenesis. Indeed, RTKs are deregulated in most human cancers and are a major focus of targeted therapeutics. A growing appreciation of the essential role of spatial RTK regulation during development prompts the realization that spatial deregulation of RTKs is likely to contribute broadly to cancer development and may affect the sensitivity and resistance of cancer to pharmacological RTK inhibitors.