The tumor necrosis factor related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) causes cancer cell death, but many cancers, including pancreatic cancer, are resistant to TRAIL therapy. A combination of TRAIL and the diterpene triepoxide, triptolide, is effective in inducing pancreatic cancer cell death. Triptolide increases levels of death receptor DR5 and decreases the pro-survival FLICE-like inhibitory protein (c-FLIP), which contribute to the activation of caspase-8. This combination further causes both lysosomal and mitochondrial membrane permeabilization, resulting in cell death. Our study provides a mechanism by which triptolide sensitizes TRAIL resistant cells, which may become a novel therapeutic strategy against pancreatic cancer. © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.