The matrix metalloproteinases are a family of nearly 30 enzymes that are intimately involved in tissue remodeling. Disease processes associated with the matrix metalloproteinases are generally related to imbalance between the inhibition and activation of matrix metalloproteinases resulting in excessive degradation of the extracellullar matrix. These include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tumor metastasis and congestive heart failure. Despite massive research and development efforts, there are only two drugs launched on the market: periostat (doxycycline), a tetracycline used for periodontal disease and glucosemine sulfate, for osteoarthritis. Possible reasons for the low success rate of matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors in the clinic are mainly from unwanted side effects caused by their lack of selectivity, since inhibition of collagenase-1 may be responsible for the musculoskeletal side effects observed clinically with broad-spectrum inhibitors. Considering these data, many efforts were directed to developing a more selective second generation of inhibitors against the specific matrix metalloproteinases believed to be involved in the different pathologies. This review mainly focuses on selective matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors development on matrix metalloproteinases in terms of antitumor since the late 90s, in terms of synthetic compounds of low molecular mass incorporating specific zinc-binding groups, natural products and their derivatives. Through these methods, new hope is emerging in the form of synthetic and natural matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors for the prevention and treatment of cancer.