Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is a major mammalian embryo-specific and tumor-associated protein that is also present in small quantities in adults at normal conditions. Discovery of the phenomenon of AFP biosynthesis in carcinogenesis by G. Abelev and Yu. Tatarinov 50 years ago, in 1963, provoked intensive studies of this protein. AFPs of some mammalian species were isolated, purified and physico-chemically and immunochemically characterized. Despite the significant success in study of AFP, its three-dimensional structure, mechanisms of receptor binding along with a structure of the receptor itself and, what is the most important, its biological role in embryo- and carcinogenesis remain still obscure. Due to difficulties linked with methodological limitations, research of AFP was to some extent extinguished by the 1990 s. However, over the last decade a growing number of investigations of AFP and its usage as a tumor-specific biomarker have been observed. This was caused by the use of new technologies, primarily, computer-based and genetic engineering approaches in studying of this very important oncodevelopmental protein. Our review summarizes efforts of different scientific groups throughout the world in studying AFP for 50 years with emphasis on detailed description of recent achievements in this field.