Stress or heat shock proteins (HSPs) such as HSP27 and HSP70 are expressed in response to a wide variety of physiological and environmental insults including heat, reactive oxygen species or anticancer drugs. Their overexpression allows cells to survive to otherwise lethal conditions. Several different mechanisms may account for the cytoprotective activity of HSP27 and HSP70. First, both proteins are powerful chaperones. Second, both inhibit key effectors of the apoptotic machinery including the apoptosome, the caspase activation complex (both HSP27 and HSP70), and apoptosis inducing factor (only HSP70). Third, they both play a role in the proteasome-mediated degradation of apoptosis-regulatory proteins. HSP27 and HSP70 may participate in oncogenesis, as suggested by the fact that overexpression of heat shock proteins can increase the tumorigenic potential of tumor cells. The down-regulation or selective inhibition of HSP70 might constitute a valuable strategy for the treatment of cancer.