Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are a key component of the tumour microenvironment with diverse functions, including matrix deposition and remodelling, extensive reciprocal signalling interactions with cancer cells and crosstalk with infiltrating leukocytes. As such, they are a potential target for optimizing therapeutic strategies against cancer. However, many challenges are present in ongoing attempts to modulate CAFs for therapeutic benefit. These include limitations in our understanding of the origin of CAFs and heterogeneity in CAF function, with it being desirable to retain some antitumorigenic functions. On the basis of a meeting of experts in the field of CAF biology, we summarize in this Consensus Statement our current knowledge and present a framework for advancing our understanding of this critical cell type within the tumour microenvironment.