Insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding protein-4 (IGFBP-4) is a modulator of the IGF system, exerting both inhibitory and stimulatory effects on IGF-induced cellular growth. IGFBP-4 is the principal substrate for the enzyme pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A). Through IGF-dependent cleavage of IGFBP-4 in the vicinity of the IGF receptor, PAPP-A is able to increase IGF bioavailability and stimulate IGF-mediated growth. Recently, the stanniocalcins (STCs) were identified as novel inhibitors of PAPP-A proteolytic activity, hereby adding additional members to the seemingly endless list of proteins belonging to the IGF family. Our understanding of these proteins has advanced throughout recent years, and there is evidence to suggest that the role of IGFBP-4 and PAPP-A in defining the relationship between total IGF and IGF bioactivity can be linked to a number of pathological conditions. This review provides an overview of the experimental and clinical findings on the IGFBP-4/PAPP-A/STC axis as a regulator of IGF activity and examines the conundrum surrounding extrapolation of circulating concentrations to tissue action of these proteins. The primary focus will be on the biological significance of IGFBP-4 and PAPP-A in normal physiology and in pathophysiology with emphasis on metabolic disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Finally, the review assesses current new trajectories of IGFBP-4 and PAPP-A research.