The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are believed to mediate their anticancer effects by inducing apoptosis but the molecular mechanisms of their apoptotic effects remain largely unknown. Here we report that two different NSAIDs, sulindac sulfide and SC-'236 engage the death receptor 5 (DR5) and mitochondrial pathways to mediate apoptosis in human colon cancer cells. We show that sulindac sulfide and SC-'236-induced apoptosis is coupled with upregulation of DR5, caspase 8 activation and Bid cleavage. Thus, a cross talk appears to exist between the DR5 and mitochondrial pathways during apoptosis induced by these NSAIDs. We further show that sulindac sulfide and SC-'236-induced DR5 upregulation occurs independent of the COX inhibitory effects of these NSAIDs. Using Bax-proficient (Bax+/-) and Bax-deficient (Bax-/-) HCT116 human colon cancer cells, we further demonstrate that Apo2L/TRAIL differentially modulates the apoptotic effects of sulindac sulfide and SC-'236. For example, sulindac sulfide upregulates DR5 in both Bax-deficient and proficient cells, but Apo2L/TRAIL efficiently potentiates sulindac sulfide-induced apoptosis as well as activation of caspase-8, -9 and -3 only in Bax-proficient cells. SC-'236 also upregulates DR5 in both Bax-proficient and Bax-deficient cells but Apo2L/TRAIL potentiates SC-'236-mediated apoptosis and caspases-8 and -3 activation in both Bax-proficient and Bax-deficient cells. Further, in Bax-deficient cells, neither sulindac sulfide nor SC-'236 in combination with Apo2L/TRAIL effectively promotes the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria into cytosol and caspase-9 activation. Collectively, our results suggest that unlike sulindac sulfide, SC-'236 in combination with Apo2L/TRAIL can overcome Bax deficiency to induce apoptosis. These results have important clinical implications in that the tumors harboring Bax mutations are likely to develop resistance to sulindac but not to SC-'236-like NSAIDs. In conclusion, the data presented herein form the basis of future in-depth studies to further explore the utility of Apo2L/TRAIL and NSAIDs, in combination, as a novel cancer preventive/therapeutic strategy.