Caspase-mediated apoptosis is a major hindrance to tumour growth and metastasis. Accordingly, defects in signalling pathways leading to the activation of caspases are common in tumours. Moreover, many tumour cells can unexpectedly survive the activation of caspases. As a result, caspase-independent cell death programmes are gaining increasing interest among cancer researchers. The heterogeneity of cancer cells with respect to their sensitivity to various death stimuli further emphasizes the need for additional death pathways in the therapeutic control of cell death. An understanding of the molecular control of alternative death pathways is beginning to emerge, being comparable with that of the molecular anatomy of apoptosis at the time of the discovery of caspases less than a decade ago. Here, newly discovered triggers and molecular regulators of alternative cell death programmes are reviewed and their potential in future cancer therapy is discussed.