Cholangiocarcinoma is a highly malignant tumor with limited therapeutic options. We have previously reported that tamoxifen (TMX) induces apoptosis of cholangiocarcinoma cells and reduces cholangiocarcinoma tumorigenesis in mice. In the present studies, we determined the effect of combination therapy of TMX and gemcitabine (GMT), another chemotherapeutical reagent for many cancers, on cholangiocarcinoma tumorigenesis and investigated the responsible mechanisms. GMT inhibited cell growth and induced apoptosis of cholangiocarcinoma cells in a concentration-dependent manner. TMX enhanced GMT-induced apoptosis of cholangiocarcinoma cells. Consistently, GMT (15 mg/kg) inhibited cholangiocarcinoma tumorigenesis in nude mice by 50%. TMX (15 mg/kg) enhanced the inhibitory effect of GMT on tumorigenesis by 33%. The inhibition of tumor growth correlated with enhanced apoptosis in tumor tissues. To elucidate the mechanisms underlying the additive effects of TMX on GMT-induced apoptosis, we determined the activation of caspases in cholangiocarcinoma cells exposed to GMT, TMX, or both. Activation of caspases 9 and 3, as well as cytochrome c release to the cytosol, was demonstrated in cells exposed to both reagents. In contrast, TMX activated caspase 2, whereas GMT had no effect. Inhibition of caspase 2 activation decreased TMX-, but not GMT-, induced activation of caspase 3 and apoptosis of cholangiocarcinoma cells. Similarly, activation of caspase 2 was found in tumors from TMX-treated mice, but not GMT-treated mice. Therefore, the enhanced effect of TMX on GMT-induced cholangiocarcinoma cell death is partially mediated by activation of caspase 2. TMX and GMT both induce apoptosis and inhibit cholangiocarcinoma tumorigenesis, which may be attributed to the activation of distinct apoptosis signals by TMX and GMT. Our studies provide in vivo evidence and molecular insight to support the use of TMX and GMT in combination as an effective therapy for cholangiocarcinoma. © 2011 USCAP, Inc All rights reserved.