The cytotoxicities of 11 lupane series triterpenes against 3 human leukemias, 2 melanomas, 2 neuroblastomas and normal fibroblast cells were examined. Lupane triterpenes with a carbonyl group at C-17 (7-11) showed inhibitory effects on leukemia, melanoma and neuroblastoma cell growth. Lup-28-al-20(29)-en-3-one (8) markedly inhibited the cell growth of 3 leukemias to a greater extent than the other human cancers and normal lung fibroblast cells. The cytotoxicity profiles of 8 against human cancer cells showed that its cytotoxic effect against 3 lung cancer cell lines was strong and the cytotoxic effects against osteosarcoma, breast cancer and urinary bladder cancer cells were very weak. The morphological observations of leukemia nuclei and the gel electrophoresis analysis of DNA extracted from 8-treated leukemia cells revealed that 8 induced leukemia cell apoptosis. Furthermore, we investigated the cytotoxic effects of 8 on adriamycin (ADM)- and vincristine (VCR)-resistant K562 (K562/ADM and K562/VCR) cells. K562/ADM and K562/VCR cells showed greater resistance toward ADM and VCR when compared to parent K562 cells. However, 8 inhibited the drug-resistant K562 cell growth to the same extent as K562 cells by the induction of apoptosis.