Our current definitions of the tumor suppressor gene (TSG) have been guided by the identification of the prototypical gene, RB1, a TSG that is implicated in the development of both the inherited and sporadic forms of retinoblastoma. The hallmark feature of this TSG is loss of function in tumoral cells, which can be restored by reintroduction of a normally functioning protein with concomitant reversion of tumorigenicity. Key to this discovery was that loss of function is often achieved by deletion of a normal copy of the TSG and retention of a mutated allele, which was either inherited or acquired. Suppression of tumorigenicity and the loss-of-function concept of TSGs was also demonstrated in early studies where normal cellular growth was achieved when tumorigenic cells were fused with normal cells. Thus loss of genetic content and restoration of gene function has guided studies aimed at the discovery of novel TSGs. Here we review the successes of TSG discovery using three approaches that are based on the genetic analysis of inherited predisposition to cancer, tumors that display chromosome loss, and tumorigenic cells that display a suppression of tumorigenicity as a result of transfer of normal chromosomes. Based on a review of the literature we conclude that the discovery of TSGs has been highly successful in the genetic analysis of inherited predisposition to cancer with a dominant mode of inheritance. In contrast, the latter two approaches have yielded a paucity of TSGs that exhibit features similar to the prototypical RB1 in that they are rarely inactivated by somatic mutations in tumors displaying LOH, although decreased gene expression is observed. Nevertheless, some of these genes have been shown to suppress tumorigenicity when normal function is restored in tumorigenic cells consistent with the loss-of-function concept. These observations continue to challenge our current definition of TSG.