The insulin-like growth factors (IGF) and their receptors play pivotal roles in cellular signaling transduction and thus regulate cell growth, differentiation, apoptosis, transformation and other important physiological progresses. The insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF-1R) mainly engages in the Ras/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/AKT) pathway, and also forms cross-talk with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway. Currently, it draws more attention since its overexpression has been demonstrated in various human cancers, such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung tumors, thus the strategy targeting the IGF-1R would be promising in treatment of these cancers. There are already dozens of agents developed for the inhibition of IGF-1R, which are categorized into monoclonal antibodies, small molecule inhibitors and so on. While in this review, small molecule inhibitors would be the focus for detailed discussion. Herein, we updated previously reported research papers and reviews in this field and summarized developments of small molecule inhibitors up to 2011. Finally, we proposed the application of network pharmacology methods to reconsider the clinical use of inhibitors with concomitant IR inhibition or other kinases inhibition, hoping that more optimal combinations would be obtained for cancer therapy.