The tumor microenvironment (TME) is being increasingly recognized as a key factor in multiple stages of disease progression, particularly local resistance, immune-escaping, and distant metastasis, thereby substantially impacting the future development of frontline interventions in clinical oncology. An appropriate understanding of the TME promotes evaluation and selection of candidate agents to control malignancies at both the primary sites as well as the metastatic settings. This review presents a timely outline of research advances in TME biology and highlights the prospect of targeting the TME as a critical strategy to overcome acquired resistance, prevent metastasis, and improve therapeutic efficacy. As benign cells in TME niches actively modulate response of cancer cells to a broad range of standard chemotherapies and targeted agents, cancer-oriented therapeutics should be combined with TME-targeting treatments to achieve optimal clinical outcomes. Overall, a body of updated information is delivered to summarize recently emerging and rapidly progressing aspects of TME studies, and to provide a significant guideline for prospective development of personalized medicine, with the long term aim of providing a cure for cancer patients.