The pivotal roles of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases (PI3Ks) in human cancers have inspired active development of small molecules to inhibit these lipid kinases. However, the first-generation pan-PI3K and dual-PI3K/mTOR inhibitors have encountered problems in clinical trials, with limited efficacies as a monotherapeutic agent as well as a relatively high rate of side effects. It is increasingly recognized that different PI3K isoforms play non-redundant roles in particular tumor types, which has prompted the development of isoform-selective inhibitors for pre-selected patients with the aim for improving efficacy while decreasing undesirable side effects. The success of PI3K isoform-selective inhibitors is represented by CAL101 (Idelalisib), a first-in-class PI3Kδ-selective small-molecule inhibitor that has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and relapsed small lymphocytic lymphoma. Inhibitors targeting other PI3K isoforms are also being extensively developed. This review focuses on the recent progress in development of PI3K isoform-selective inhibitors for cancer therapy. A deeper understanding of the action modes of novel PI3K isoform-selective inhibitors will provide valuable information to further validate the concept of targeting specific PI3K isoforms, while the identification of biomarkers to stratify patients who are likely to benefit from the therapy will be essential for the success of these agents.