The original notion that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) act as tumour and metastasis-promoting enzymes by clearing a path for tumour cells to invade and metastasize has been challenged in the last decade. It has become clear that MMPs are involved in numerous steps of tumour progression and metastasis, and hence are now considered to be multifaceted proteases. Moreover, more recent experimental evidence indicates that some members of the MMP family behave as tumour-suppressor enzymes and should therefore be regarded as anti-targets in cancer therapy. The complexity of the pro- and anti-tumorigenic and -metastatic functions might partly explain why broad-spectrum MMP inhibitors failed in phase III clinical trials. This review will provide a focussed overview of the published data on the tumour-suppressive behaviour of MMPs.