The role of stromal cells and the tumour microenvironment in general in modulating tumour sensitivity is increasingly becoming a key consideration for the development of active anticancer therapeutics. Here, we discuss how these tumour-stromal interactions affect tumour cell signalling, survival, proliferation and drug sensitivity. Particular emphasis is placed on the ability of stromal cells to confer - to tumour cells - resistance or sensitization to different classes of therapeutics, depending on the specific microenvironmental context. The mechanistic understanding of these microenvironmental interactions can influence the evaluation and selection of candidate agents for various cancers, in both the primary site as well as the metastatic setting. Progress in in vitro screening platforms as well as orthotopic and 'orthometastatic' xenograft mouse models has enabled comprehensive characterization of the impact of the tumour microenvironment on therapeutic efficacy. These recent advances can hopefully bridge the gap between preclinical studies and clinical trials of anticancer agents.