Since the discovery of the NF-kappaB transcription factor in 1986 and the cloning of the genes coding for NF-kappaB and IkappaB proteins, many studies demonstrated that this transcription factor can, in most cases, protect transformed cells from apoptosis and therefore participate in the onset or progression of many human cancers. Molecular studies demonstrated that ancient widely used drugs, known for their chemopreventive or therapeutic activities against human cancers, inhibit NF-kappaB, usually among other biological effects. It is therefore considered that the anti-cancer activities of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or glucocorticoids are probably partially related to the inhibition of NF-kappaB and new clinical trials are being initiated with old compounds such as sulfasalazine. In parallel, many companies have developed novel agents acting on the NF-kappaB pathway: some of these agents are supposed to be NF-kappaB specific (i.e. IKK inhibitors) while others have wide-range biological activities (i.e. proteasome inhibitors). Today, the most significant clinical data have been obtained with bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor, for the treatment of multiple myeloma. This review discusses the preclinical and clinical data obtained with these various drugs and their putative future developments.