Extracellular matrix (ECM) plays an important role in the progression of cancer. Collagen is the most abundant component in ECM, and it is involved in the biological formation of cancer. Although type XI collagen is a minor fibrillar collagen, collagen XI alpha 1 chain (COL11A1) has been found to be upregulated in a variety of cancers including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer, and transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. High levels of COL11A1 usually predict poor prognosis, while COL11A1 is related to angiogenesis, invasion, and drug resistance of cancer. However, little is known about the specific mechanism by which COL11A1 regulates tumor progression. Here, we have organized and summarized the recent developments regarding elucidation of the relationship between COL11A1 and various cancers, as well as the interaction between COL11A1 and intracellular signaling pathways. In addition, we have selected therapeutic agents targeting COL11A1. All these indicate the possibility of using COL11A1 as a target for cancer treatment. © 2021 The Authors. The FASEB Journal published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.