New tumor targeting agents are required to advance cancer diagnosis and treatment. Bacteriophage (phage) display technology, a molecular genetic means of combinatorial drug discovery, is an emerging approach to identify and improve peptide molecules as pharmaceuticals. Peptides are thought to have clinically desirable benefits over currently used biomolecules, such as antibodies, because of their rapid blood clearance, increased diffusion and tissue penetration, non-immunogenic nature and ease of synthesis. Using phage display, one can rapidly and simultaneously survey billionclone peptide libraries, resulting in large numbers of “hits”. However, only a few lead compounds resulting from the hits historically reach the drug market. Hence determining which peptide may best translate into a useful drug is of particular importance. Examination of successfully marketed drugs has highlighted key features of a winning agent, including low molecular weight, high affinity, stability, solubility, lipophilicity and conformational rigidity. Although peptide modulators of tumor cell function and cancer targeting agents have been developed, the majority of peptide-based drugs reported thus far are immune and cardiac regulators. In this review, we will highlight how phage display has been employed to isolate peptides that target key steps in cancer progression - from tumor growth to metastasis - and how phage display technology can be harnessed to select a priori peptides with inherent features essential for anti-cancer drug efficacy. In 2003, phage display provided us with several novel peptides not only in clinical trials but approved by the FDA for use as therapeutics in a variety of diseases - suggesting that the future looks bright for phage display in anticancer drug development.