Significance: Flavonoids can interact with multiple molecular targets to elicit their cellular effects, leading to changes in signal transduction, gene expression, and/or metabolism, which can, subsequently, affect the entire cell and organism. Immortalized cell lines, derived from tumors, are routinely employed as a surrogate for mechanistic studies, with the results extrapolated to tissues in vivo. Recent Advances: We review the activities of selected flavonoids on cultured tumor cells derived from various tissues in comparison to corresponding primary cells or tissues in vivo, mainly using quercetin and flavanols (epicatechin and (-)-epigallocatechin gallate) as exemplars. Several studies have indicated that flavonoids could retard cancer progression in vivo in animal models as well as in tumor cell models. Critical Issues: Extrapolation from in vitro and animal models to humans is not straightforward given both the extensive conjugation and complex microbiota-dependent metabolism of flavonoids after consumption, as well as the heterogeneous metabolism of different tumors. Future Directions: Comparison of data from studies on primary cells or in vivo are essential not only to validate results obtained from cultured cell models, but also to highlight whether any differences may be further exploited in the clinical setting for chemoprevention. Tumor cell models can provide a useful mechanistic tool to study the effects of flavonoids, provided that the limitations of each model are understood and taken into account in interpretation of the data.