Accurate detection and characterization of cancers are key for providing timely intervention and effective treatments. Current imaging technologies are particularly limited when it comes to detecting very small tumors in vivo, i.e., very early cancers or metastases, differentiating viable tumor from surrounding dead tumor tissue, and evaluating tumor metabolism within tissue. Optoacoustic imaging offers potential solutions to these imaging problems because of its ability to image optical absorption properties of both intrinsic tissue chromophores and exogenous contrast agents without the involvement of ionizing radiation. Optoacoustic imaging uses pulsed laser to induce localized thermoelastic expansion that generates acoustic waves detectable by an ultrasound transducer. To date, multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) has primarily been used in preclinical research; however, its use in translational and clinical research is expanding. This review focuses on current and emerging applications of optoacoustic imaging for molecular imaging of cancer using both exogenous and endogenous contrast agents and sheds light on potential future clinical applications. Clin Cancer Res; 22(14); 3432-9. ©2016 AACR.