The proteasome is the main extralysosomal system involved in intracellular proteolysis. A number of proteasome substrates, including cyclins, IkappaB, and p53, are critical to cell cycle progression and apoptosis. Interruption of the degradation of these substrates through proteasome inhibition is a novel and unique approach to the treatment of malignancies. First-generation proteasome inhibitors lacked usefulness because of broad specificity and irreversible binding to the proteasome. However, the later synthesis of the peptide boronic acid proteasome inhibitor bortezomib allowed for selective, reversible binding. Basic investigations have reported the antitumor activity of bortezomib in a variety of hematologic and solid tumor models and have demonstrated the ability of bortezomib to enhance chemosensitivity and overcome cellular mechanisms of drug resistance attributable, in part, to abrogation of NF-kappaB induction. In patients with relapsed, refractory multiple myeloma who had received a median of six prior regimens, treatment with bortezomib resulted in a 35% response rate (complete plus partial plus minimal response) using criteria of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Encouraging activity has been demonstrated with bortezomib in the first-line treatment of myeloma and in patients with mantle cell lymphoma. Investigations of its utility in the treatment of patients with solid tumors are ongoing.