TGFβ1 is a major fibrotic factor and its actions involve induction of epithelial cell death, together with the stimulation and transdifferentiation of fibroblasts into collagen- and fibronectin-secreting myofibroblasts. These actions of TGFβ1 are also consistent with a pro-metastatic role, by aiding epithelial cell escape through mesenchymal tissues. Recently IGFBP-5 has been described as a pro-fibrotic (pro-metastatic?) agent and the aim of this study was to compare and contrast the actions of IGFBP-5 with TGFβ1. We used NMuMG cells and cloned stable epithelial and mesenchymal lines from the parent cells. TGFβ1 induced apoptosis and/or EMT in the epithelial cells, whereas it enhanced mesenchymal cell survival and migration. IGFBP-5, in contrast, enhanced both cell–cell and cell–ECM adhesion and also improved wound closure in epithelial cells whereas, in mesenchymal cells, IGFBP-5 decreased adhesion and migration. Furthermore, IGFBP-5 was able to antagonise the actions of TGFβ1. In a co-culture model simulating epithelial–mesenchymal boundaries, IGFBP-5 was able to antagonise the disruptive transgressions induced by TGFβ1. Overall, these findings suggest that IGFBP-5 is important in maintaining epithelial–mesenchymal boundaries and thus may limit metastasis and fibrosis by inducing an orderly repair mechanism, very distinct from the fibrotic disruption induced by TGFβ1. A role for IGFBP-5 in the inhibition of metastasis is supported by immunohistochemical studies of breast cancer microarrays, where we show that elevated IGFBP-5 expression is associated with increased disease-free survival.