We have investigated the mechanisms of maslinic acid with regard to its inhibitory effects on the growth of HT29 colon-cancer cells. High concentrations of maslinic acid are present in the protective wax-like coating of olives. Our results show that treatment with maslinic acid results in a significant inhibition of cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner and causes apoptotic death in colon-cancer cells. We found that it inhibits considerably the expression of Bcl-2 whilst increasing that of Bax; it also stimulates the release of mitochondrial cytochrome-c and activates caspase-9 and caspase-3. All these results point clearly to the activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway in response to the treatment of HT29 colon-cancer cells with maslinic acid. Our results suggest that maslinic acid has the potential to provide significant natural defence against colon-cancer.