Since the discovery of MSP (macrophage-stimulating protein; also known as MST1 and hepatocyte growth factor-like (HGFL)) as the ligand for the receptor tyrosine kinase RON (also known as MST1R) in the early 1990s, the roles of this signalling axis in cancer pathogenesis has been extensively studied in various model systems. Both in vitro and in vivo evidence has revealed that MSP-RON signalling is important for the invasive growth of different types of cancers. Currently, small-molecule inhibitors and antibodies blocking RON signalling are under investigation. Substantial responses have been achieved in human tumour xenograft models, laying the foundation for clinical validation. In this Review, we discuss recent advances that demonstrate the importance of MSP-RON signalling in cancer and its potential as a therapeutic target.