Introduction: An emerging therapy in oncology is the induction of apoptotic cell death through anti-death receptor therapy. However, pancreatic cancer is resistant to apoptosis including anti-death receptor therapy. We have previously described how triptolide decreases resistance to apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. We hypothesized that triptolide decreases tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) resistance in pancreatic cancer cells. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects that combined therapy with TRAIL and triptolide have on different parameters of apoptosis. Methods: Four different pancreatic cancer cell lines were exposed to triptolide, TRAIL, or a combination of both drugs. We assessed the effects that combined therapy with TRAIL and triptolide has on cell viability, apoptosis, caspase-3 and caspase-9 activities, and poly(ADP)-ribose polymerase cleavage. Results: Pancreatic cancer cells were resistant to TRAIL therapy; however, combined therapy with triptolide and TRAIL significantly decreased the cell viability in all the cell lines and increased apoptotic cell death as a result of caspase-3 and caspase-9 activation. Conclusions: Pancreatic cancer is highly resistant to anti-death receptor therapy, but combined therapy with TRAIL and triptolide is an effective therapy that induces apoptotic cell death in pancreatic cancer cells. © 2009 The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract.