Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)/Apo2 ligand selectively kills neoplastic cells, including thyroid carcinoma cells (Mitsiades et al: Thyroid carcinoma cells are resistant to FAS-mediated apoptosis but sensitive to tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand. Cancer Res 2000, 60:4122-41299). We investigated the mechanisms regulating Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis in thyroid carcinoma cells, as well as the impact of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, interferon-gamma, and TNF-alpha. We found that the emergence of resistance to Apo2L/TRAIL, after prolonged incubation with this cytokine, was associated with increased levels of FLICE inhibitory protein (FLIP), and was overcome by cycloheximide and bisindolylmaleimide, that specifically down-regulated FLIP expression, as well as by transfection of a FLIP anti-sense oligonucleotide. IGF-1 activated Akt; up-regulated the caspase inhibitors FLIP, cIAP-2, XIAP, and survivin; and attenuated Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis. This effect was inhibited by the IGF-1 receptor neutralizing antibody aIR3, the PI-3K inhibitor wortmannin, and the heat shock protein-90 chaperone inhibitor geldanamycin. Transfection of constitutively active Akt protected from TRAIL. Conversely, interferon-gamma and TNF-alpha had a sensitizing effect. We conclude that FLIP may negatively regulate Apo2L/TRAIL-induced apoptosis in thyroid carcinomas. Microenvironmental paracrine survival factors, such as IGF-1, up-regulate caspase inhibitors, including FLIP, and protect from Apo2L/TRAIL in a PI-3K/Akt-dependent manner. T helper-1 cytokines and compounds that selectively abrogate the IGF-1 signaling pathway may be helpful adjunct agents in Apo2L/TRAIL-based anti-cancer therapeutic regimens.