The Human Proteome Project stands to eclipse the Human Genome Project in terms of scope, content and interpretation. Its outputs, in conjunction with recent developments across the proteomics community, provide new tools for cancer research with the potential of providing clinically relevant insights into the disease. These collectively may guide the development of future diagnosis, surveillance and treatment strategies. Having established a robust organizational framework within the international community, the Human Proteome Organization and the proteomics community at large have made significant advances in biomarker discovery, detection, molecular imaging and in exploring tumor heterogeneity. Here, the authors discuss some developments in cancer proteomics and how they can be implemented to reduce the global burden of the disease.