The functions of the antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL were examined in glioblastoma cells. Expression of both Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL were found to be elevated in protein lysates from seven early passage cell lines derived from human glioblastoma tumors compared with non-neoplastic glial cells. Down-regulation of both bcl-2 and bcl-xL expression in glioblastoma cell lines U87 and NS008 with bcl-2/bcl-xL bispecific antisense oligonucleotide resulted in spontaneous cell death. The mechanism of cell death was partially caspase-dependent. Executioner caspase 6 and caspase 7, but not caspase 3, were involved in apoptosis induced by bcl-2/bcl-xL antisense treatment. Interestingly, western blots failed to demonstrate expression of caspase 3 in two of the seven glioblastoma cell lines examined. The data support the hypothesis that Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL are important in preventing cell death in glioblastoma cells. It also suggests that there are functional pathways capable of successful completion of caspase-dependent cell death in gliomas. These findings support a potential role of bcl-2/bcl-xL bispecifc antisense oligonucleotide therapy as a treatment strategy to enhance caspase-dependent cell death in patients with glioblastoma.