We present an introductory survey of the use of surrogates in cancer research, in particular in clinical trials. The concept of a surrogate endpoint is introduced and contrasted with that of a biomarker. It is emphasized that a surrogate endpoint is not universal for an indication but will depend on the mechanism of treatment. We discuss the measures of validity of a surrogate and give examples of both cancer surrogates and biomarkers on the path to surrogacy. Circumstances in which a surrogate endpoint may actually be preferred to the clinical endpoint are described. We provide pointers to the recent substantive literature on surrogates. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.