Tumor development is a dynamic process where cancer cells differentiate, proliferate and migrate interacting among each other and with the surrounding matrix in a three-dimensional (3D) context. Interestingly, the process follows patterns similar to those involved in early tissue formation by accessing specific genetic programs to grow and disseminate. Thus, the complex biological mechanisms driving tumor progression cannot easily be recreated in the laboratory. Yet, essential tumor stages, including epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), tumor-induced angiogenesis and metastasis, urgently need more realistic models in order to unravel the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms that govern them. The latest implementation of successful 3D models is having a positive impact on the fight against cancer by obtaining more predictive systems for pre-clinical research, therapeutic drug screening, and early cancer diagnosis. In this review we explore the latest advances and challenges in tumor tissue engineering, by accessing knowledge and tools from cancer biology, material science and bioengineering.