Effort invested in the development of new drugs often fails to be translated into meaningful clinical benefits for patients with cancer. The development of more effective anticancer therapeutics and accurate prediction of their clinical merit remain urgent unmet medical needs. As solid cancers have complex and heterogeneous structures composed of different cell types and extracellular matrices, three-dimensional (3D) cancer models hold great potential for advancing our understanding of cancer biology, which has been historically investigated in tumour cell cultures on rigid plastic plates. Advanced 3D bioprinted cancer models have the potential to revolutionize the way we discover therapeutic targets, develop new drugs and personalize anticancer therapies in an accurate, reproducible, clinically translatable and robust manner. These ex vivo cancer models are already replacing existing in vitro systems and could, in the future, diminish or even replace the use of animal models. Therefore, profound understanding of the differences in tumorigenesis between 2D, 3D and animal models of cancer is essential. This Review presents the state of the art of 3D bioprinted cancer modelling, focusing on the biological processes that underlie the molecular mechanisms involved in cancer progression and treatment response as well as on proteomic and genomic signatures.