Targeted delivery approaches for cancer therapeutics have shown a steep rise over the past few decades. However, compared to the plethora of successful pre-clinical studies, only 15 passively targeted nanocarriers (NCs) have been approved for clinical use and none of the actively targeted NCs have advanced past clinical trials. Herein, we review the principles behind targeted delivery approaches to determine potential reasons for their limited clinical translation and success. We propose criteria and considerations that must be taken into account for the development of novel actively targeted NCs. We also highlight the possible directions for the development of successful tumor targeting strategies.