The immune system has evolved to respond not only to pathogens, but also to signals released from dying cells. Cell death through necrosis induces inflammation, whereas apoptotic cell death provides an important signal for tolerance induction. High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) is a DNA-binding nuclear protein, released actively following cytokine stimulation as well as passively during cell death; it is the prototypic damage-associated molecular pattern (DAMP) molecule and has been implicated in several inflammatory disorders. HMGB1 can associate with other molecules, including TLR ligands and cytokines, and activates cells through the differential engagement of multiple surface receptors including TLR2, TLR4, and RAGE. RAGE is a multiligand receptor that binds structurally diverse molecules, including not only HMGB1, but also S100 family members and amyloid-beta. RAGE activation has been implicated in sterile inflammation as well as in cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. While HMGB1 through interactions with TLRs may also be important, this review focuses on the role of the HMGB1-RAGE axis in inflammation and cancer.