Disturbances in mechanisms that direct abnormal cells to undergo apoptosis frequently and critically contribute to tumorigenesis, yielding a logical target for potential therapeutic intervention. There is currently heightened interest in the extrinsic apoptosis pathway, with several proapoptotic receptor agonists (PARAs) in development. The PARAs include the ligand recombinant human Apo2L/TRAIL and agonistic mAbs. Mechanistic and preclinical data with Apo2L/TRAIL indicate exciting opportunities for synergy with conventional therapies and for combining PARAs with other molecularly targeted agents. Novel molecular biomarkers may help identify those patients most likely to benefit from PARA therapy.