Cellular growth and development are regulated by reversible phosphorylation of tyrosine residues in target proteins. Protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) catalyse removal, and protein tyrosine kinases (PTKs) the addition of phosphate. Data from various sources support a role for PTKs in transformation and it has long been hypothesized that some PTPs will function as tumour suppressor genes. Specific PTPs are down-regulated in some tumours, sometimes in association with ectopic expression of PTKs. Alternatively, other PTPs dephosphorylate and activate PTKs, and are themselves oncogenic. Much current interest surrounds the clinical introduction of specific PTK inhibitors, whereas targeting of PTPs remains largely unexplored. Phosphatases represent 4% of the drugable human genome and PTPs appear an important new target for cancer therapy. Here we briefly, describe PTP structure and function. Secondly, we review experimental and clinical data, which support a role for PTPs in neoplastic development. Next, we review current strategies for generation of agents targeting PTPs; these include re-expression of tumour suppressor genes (mediated via adenoviral vectors), and generation of small molecules designed to inhibit oncogenic activity. Finally, we address the role of PTPs in melanoma, an increasingly common tumour that may represent an appropriate target for therapeutic manipulation of PTP activity.