TRAIL primarily induces apoptosis in cancer cells but not in normal cells. However, some TRAIL-resistant cancer cell lines have recently been discovered. Ionizing radiation may enhance the apoptosis inducing potential of TRAIL in sensitive cells, and sensitize TRAIL-resistant cancer cells. We assessed the influence of sequential treatment of irradiation followed by TRAIL on intracellular mechanisms of apoptosis of breast tumor cells in vitro and on tumor regression in xenografted athymic nude mice. Irradiation augmented TRAIL-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells through up-regulation of DR5, and subsequent activation of caspases-3, -8 and -9. Inhibition of p53 by siRNA abrogated irradiation-induced DR5 expression, suggesting the requirement of p53 for DR5 induction. The pretreatment of cells with irradiation followed by TRAIL significantly induced more apoptosis than single agent alone or concurrent treatment with irradiation and TRAIL. The sequential treatment of xenografted mice with irradiation followed by TRAIL-induced apoptosis through caspase-3 activation, completely eradicated the established breast tumors, and enhanced survival of mice without detectable toxicity to normal tissues. The sequential treatment with irradiation followed by TRAIL provides an approach to enhance therapeutic potential of TRAIL. Thus, irradiation can be combined with TRAIL in breast cancer therapy.