In the last 25 years microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) has emerged as a promising alternative to conventional radiation therapy at large, third generation synchrotrons. In MRT, a multi-slit collimator modulates a kilovoltage x-ray beam on a micrometer scale, creating peak dose areas with unconventionally high doses of several hundred Grays separated by low dose valley regions, where the dose remains well below the tissue tolerance level. Pre-clinical evidence demonstrates that such beam geometries lead to substantially reduced damage to normal tissue at equal tumour control rates and hence drastically increase the therapeutic window. Although the mechanisms behind MRT are still to be elucidated, previous studies indicate that immune response, tumour microenvironment, and the microvasculature may play a crucial role. Beyond tumour therapy, MRT has also been suggested as a microsurgical tool in neurological disorders and as a primer for drug delivery.The physical properties of MRT demand innovative medical physics and engineering solutions for safe treatment delivery. This article reviews technical developments in MRT and discusses existing solutions for dosimetric validation, reliable treatment planning and safety. Instrumentation at synchrotron facilities, including beam production, collimators and patient positioning systems, is also discussed. Specific solutions reviewed in this article include: dosimetry techniques that can cope with high spatial resolution, low photon energies and extremely high dose rates of up to 15 000 Gy s(-1), dose calculation algorithms-apart from pure Monte Carlo Simulations-to overcome the challenge of small voxel sizes and a wide dynamic dose-range, and the use of dose-enhancing nanoparticles to combat the limited penetrability of a kilovoltage energy spectrum. Finally, concepts for alternative compact microbeam sources are presented, such as inverse Compton scattering set-ups and carbon nanotube x-ray tubes, that may facilitate the transfer of MRT into a hospital-based clinical environment.Intensive research in recent years has resulted in practical solutions to most of the technical challenges in MRT. Treatment planning, dosimetry and patient safety systems at synchrotrons have matured to a point that first veterinary and clinical studies in MRT are within reach. Should these studies confirm the promising results of pre-clinical studies, the authors are confident that MRT will become an effective new radiotherapy option for certain patients.