Genetic defects in polymerase eta (pol eta; hRad30a gene) result in xeroderma pigmentosum variant syndrome (XP-V), and XP-V patients are sensitive to sunlight and highly prone to cancer development. Here, we show that pol eta plays a significant role in modulating cellular sensitivity to DNA-targeting anticancer agents. When compared with normal human fibroblast cells, pol eta-deficient cells derived from XP-V patients were 3-fold more sensitive to beta-d-arabinofuranosylcytosine, gemcitabine, or cis-diamminedichloroplatinum (cisplatin) single-agent treatments and at least 10-fold more sensitive to the gemcitabine/cisplatin combination treatment, a commonly used clinical regimen for treating a wide spectrum of cancers. Cellular and biochemical analyses strongly suggested that the higher sensitivity of XP-V cells to these agents was due to the inability of pol eta-deficient cells to help resume the DNA replication process paused by the gemcitabine/cisplatin-introduced DNA lesions. These results indicated that pol eta can play an important role in determining the cellular sensitivity to therapeutic agents. The findings not only illuminate pol eta as a potential pharmacologic target for developing new anticancer agents but also provide new directions for improving future chemotherapy regimen design considering the use of nucleoside analogues and cisplatin derivatives.