Protein synthesis can be segmented into distinct phases comprising mRNA translation initiation, elongation, and termination. Translation initiation is a highly regulated and rate-limiting step of protein synthesis that requires more than 12 eukaryotic initiation factors (eIFs). Extensive evidence shows that the transcriptome and corresponding proteome do not invariably correlate with each other in a variety of contexts. In particular, translation of mRNAs specific to angiogenesis, tumor development, and apoptosis is altered during physiological and pathophysiological stress conditions. In cancer cells, the expression and functions of eIFs are hampered, resulting in the inhibition of global translation and enhancement of translation of subsets of mRNAs by alternative mechanisms. A precise understanding of mechanisms involving eukaryotic initiation factors leading to differential protein expression can help us to design better strategies to diagnose and treat cancer. The high spatial and temporal resolution of translation control can have an immediate effect on the microenvironment of the cell in comparison with changes in transcription. The dysregulation of mRNA translation mechanisms is increasingly being exploited as a target to treat cancer. In this review, we will focus on this context by describing both canonical and noncanonical roles of eIFs, which alter mRNA translation.