The cyclooxygenase isoenzymes (COX-1 and -2) catalyze the rate-limiting steps in prostanoid biosynthesis. COX-1 and -2 genes encode two isoenzymes with overlapping yet distinct expression patterns and functions. Physiologically, various extracellular stimuli such as growth factors, cytokines and tumor promoters regulate the expression of COX-1 and -2 genes at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. COX-2 is overexpressed in rheumatoid arthritis, colorectal and breast cancer. Prostanoids produced by the COX pathway signal via plasma membrane-localized, G-protein-coupled receptors as well as via nuclear receptors. Currently, several COX-2-selective inhibitors are developed to control the anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic activities of the COX-2 isoenzyme. Inhibition of the COX isoenzyme activity and/or expression may be the basis of future generation of anti-inflammatory and anti-neoplastic drugs.