Hemostatic abnormalities associated with malignant disease led to the search for and discovery of a proteolytic enzyme that activated factor X in the blood coagulation cascade. It was named cancer procoagulant (CP). CP is a cysteine proteinase that is found in malignant and fetal (human amnion-chorion) tissue; it has not been found in normally differentiated tissue. It is a calcium-dependent, Mn2+ stimulated enzyme that has enhanced activity and inhibition in a reduced environment. This review presents a complete compilation and discussion of the known chemical and enzymatic characteristics of CP as well as many purification and assay procedures. Several unique properties of these procedures are described. Some problems and controversies are highlighted in each of the sections. An immunoassay for CP as a tumor marker and some of its potential applications in the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer are reviewed. Some therapeutic implications of CP are noted in light of the observation that antibodies to CP block the metastatic seeding of lung colonies in vivo and diminish the viability of tumor cells in vitro. Finally, comments about the relationship between tissue factor and CP in the malignant cells are provided.