In order to understand how a cancer cell is functionally different from a normal cell it is necessary to assess the complex network of pathways involving gene regulation, signaling, and cell metabolism, and the alterations in its dynamics caused by the several different types of mutations leading to malignancy. Since the network is typically complex, with multiple connections between pathways and important feedback loops, it is crucial to represent it in the form of a computational model that can be used for a rigorous analysis. This is the approach of systems biology, made possible by new -omics data generation technologies. The goal of this review is to illustrate this approach and its utility for our understanding of cancer. After a discussion of recent progress using a network-centric approach, three case studies related to diagnostics, therapy, and drug development are presented in detail. They focus on breast cancer, B-cell lymphomas, and colorectal cancer. The discussion is centered on key mathematical and computational tools common to a systems biology approach.