Cell adhesion to the extracellular matrix is deregulated in metastasis. However, traditional surfaces used to study cell adhesion do not faithfully mimic the in vivo microenvironment. Electron beam lithography (EBL) is able to generate customized protein nanopatterns. Here, we used an EBL-based green lithography approach to fabricate homogeneous and gradient, single (fibronectin, K-casein) and double (fibronectin, laminin) active component protein nanopatterns with micrometer scale spacing to investigate differences in adhesion of breast cancer cells (BCC) and normal mammary epithelial cells (NMEC). Our results showed that as expected, in contrast to NMEC, BCC were plastic: they tolerated nonadhesion promoting regions, adapted to flow and exploited gradients better. In addition, the number of focal adhesions but not their area appeared to be the dominant parameter for regulation of cell adhesion. Our findings also demonstrated that custom designed protein nanopatterns, which can properly mimic the in vivo microenvironment, enable realistic distinction of normal and cancerous cell adhesion.