The role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the tumor microenvironment is not limited to being a barrier against tumor invasion. The ECM is a reservoir of cell binding proteins and growth factors that affect tumor cell behavior. It is also substantially modified by proteases produced by tumor cells or stroma cells. As a result of the activity of these proteases, cell-cell and cell-ECM interactions are altered, new biologically active ECM molecules are generated, and the bioavailability and activity of many growth factors, growth factor receptors, and cytokines are modified. ECM-degrading proteases also play a critical role in angiogenesis, where they can act as positive as well as negative regulators of endothelial cell proliferation and vascular morphogenesis. This review article summarizes some of the most relevant findings made over the recent years that were discussed at a workshop organized by the Path B Study Section of the National Institutes of Health in October 2002.