For over 40 years, natural products have served us well in combating cancer. The main sources of these successful compounds are microbes and plants from the terrestrial and marine environments. The microbes serve as a major source of natural products with anti-tumour activity. A number of these products were first discovered as antibiotics. Another major contribution comes from plant alkaloids, taxoids and podophyllotoxins. A vast array of biological metabolites can be obtained from the marine world, which can be used for effective cancer treatment. The search for novel drugs is still a priority goal for cancer therapy, due to the rapid development of resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs. In addition, the high toxicity usually associated with some cancer chemotherapy drugs and their undesirable side-effects increase the demand for novel anti-tumour drugs active against untreatable tumours, with fewer side-effects and/or with greater therapeutic efficiency. This review points out those technologies needed to produce the anti-tumour compounds of the future.