Nearly all deaths caused by solid cancers occur as a result of metastasis--the formation of secondary tumours in distant organs such as the lungs, liver, brain and bone. A major obstruction to the development of drugs with anti-metastatic efficacy is our fragmented understanding of how tumours 'evolve' and metastasize, at both the biological and genetic levels. Furthermore, although there is significant overlap in the metastatic process among different types of cancer, there are also marked differences in the propensity to metastasize, the extent of metastasis, the sites to which the tumour metastasizes, the kinetics of the process and the mechanisms involved. Here, we consider the case of breast cancer, which has some marked distinguishing features compared with other types of cancer. Considerable progress has been made in the development of preclinical models and in the identification of relevant signalling pathways and genetic regulators of metastatic breast cancer, and we discuss how these might facilitate the development of novel targeted anti-metastatic drugs.