VacA is a channel-forming toxin unrelated to other known bacterial toxins. Most strains contain a gene, but there is marked variation among strains in VacA toxin activity. This variation is attributable to strain-specific variations in VacA amino acid sequences, as well as variations in the levels of VacA transcription and secretion. In this review, we discuss epidemiologic studies showing an association between specific allelic types and gastric cancer, as well as studies that have used animal models to investigate VacA activities relevant to gastric cancer. We also discuss the mechanisms by which VacA-induced cellular alterations may contribute to the pathogenesis of gastric cancer.