Cancer is a complex invasive genetic disease that causes significant mortality rate worldwide. Protein-based biopharmaceuticals have significantly extended the lives of millions of cancer patients. This article reviews the biological function and application of targeted anticancer biopharmaceuticals. We first discuss the specific antigens and core pathways that are used in the development of targeted cancer therapy. The innovative monoclonal antibodies, non-antibody proteins, and small molecules targeting these antigens or pathways are then reviewed. Finally, the current challenges in anticancer biopharmaceuticals development and the potential solutions to address these challenges are discussed. © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.