The efficacy of cancer treatment by radiation and chemotherapeutic drugs is often limited by severe side effects that primarily affect the hematopoietic system and the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract. Progress in understanding differences in the mechanisms involved in the responses of normal and tumor cells to genotoxic stress has led to the development of new rational approaches to selective protection of normal cells, such as suppression of apoptosis by pharmacological inhibition of p53 or activation of NF-kappaB. Another promising approach presented in this issue by Johnson et al. is based on the idea of using pharmacological inhibitors of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) to convert normal cells into a radioresistant state by inducing reversible cell cycle arrest at the G1/S transition. The evidence indicates that this approach is likely to be specific for protection of normal cells and may, therefore, have clinical potential as an adjuvant in anticancer therapies.