The potent actions of pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) on tumour-associated cells, and its extracellular localization and secretion, stimulated research on this multifunctional serpin. Such studies have identified several PEDF receptors and downstream signalling pathways. Known cellular PEDF responses have expanded from the initial discovery that PEDF induces retinoblastoma cell differentiation to its anti-angiogenic, antitumorigenic and antimetastatic properties. Although the diversity of PEDF activities seems to be complex, they are consistent with the varied mechanisms that regulate this multimodal factor. If PEDF is to be used for cancer management, a deeper appreciation of its many functions and mechanisms of action is needed.