Multiple myeloma (MM) remains an incurable disease and further development of novel agents is needed. Because constitutive expression of topoisomerase I (TopoI) in MM cells and the efficacy of SN-38, an active metabolite of irinotecan (CPT-11), have been reported, we investigated the therapeutic potential of CPT-11. Of the eight MM cell lines analyzed, four showed 50% inhibitory concentration values of less than 2 microg/mL for CPT-11 and less than 2 ng/mL for SN-38. This efficacy was partly explained by the high expression level of human carboxylesterase-2 (hCE-2) in MM cells. Interestingly, high expression of hCE-2 represented the nature of normal plasma cells, suggesting that hCE-2 could efficiently generate SN-38 within the plasma cells. As expected, higher sensitivity to CPT-11 was observed in hCE-2-overexpressing U266 cells than mock U266 cells. On the other hand, the expression levels of hCE-1, TopoI, UGT1A and ABCG2 did not seem to be associated with the sensitivity of MM cells to CPT-11. In a murine xenograft model inoculated s.c. with RPMI8226 cells, administration of CPT-11 alone significantly reduced the tumor volume. When a combination of CPT-11 and bortezomib was administered, the subcutaneous tumors completely disappeared. Thus, clinical trials on CPT-11 in patients with relapsed or refractory MM are warranted.