Cathepsin S is a lysosomal cysteine protease that has been shown to play a key role in MHC class II antigen presentation. Consequently, it has been extensively evaluated as a therapeutic target in autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Additionally, clinical and mechanistic evidence is emerging, revealing its inappropriate expression and secretion in a wide range of disease states including atherosclerosis and tumourigenesis. This review covers the known role and consequences of cathepsin S activity in these pathological disorders, highlighting various studies that have demonstrated its utility as a therapeutic target. This review also examines challenges that exist towards the development of agents that specifically target this protease and discusses the studies to date that have applied cathepsin S inhibitors in disease models.