Once thought to be rare disorders, the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are now recognized as among the most common hematological neoplasms, probably affecting more than 30,000 patients per year in the United States (US). US regulatory approval of azacitidine, decitabine, and lenalidomide between 2004 and 2006 seemed to herald a new era in the development of disease-modifying therapies for MDS, but there have been no further drug approvals for MDS indications in the US in the last 8 years. The available drugs are not curative, and few of the compounds that are currently in development are likely to be approved in the near future. As a result, MDS diagnoses continue to place a heavy burden on both patients and health care systems. Incomplete understanding of disease pathology, the inherent biological complexity of MDS, and the presence of comorbid conditions and poor performance status in the typical older patient with MDS have been major impediments to development of effective novel therapies. Here we discuss new insights from genomic discoveries that are illuminating MDS pathogenesis, increasing diagnostic accuracy, and refining prognostic assessment, and which will one day contribute to more effective treatments and improved patient outcomes.