During the last 10 years, multiple signal transduction pathways within cells have been discovered. These pathways have been linked to the regulation of many diverse cellular events such as proliferation, senescence, differentiation and apoptosis. This review will focus upon the many roles of signaling by the p42/p44 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway. Recent evidence suggests that signaling by the MAP kinase pathway can both enhance proliferation by increased expression of molecules such as cyclin D1, but also cause growth arrest by increased expression of molecules such as the cyclin kinase inhibitor protein p21(Cip-1/MDA6/WAF1). These differential effects on growth have been correlated to the amplitude and duration of the MAP kinase activity signal. Furthermore several laboratories are reporting data suggesting that inhibition of the MAP kinase pathway, as well as a family of upstream MAP kinase activators, the protein kinase C family, represent an important route to both radio- and chemo-sensitization of tumor cells. Herein, we describe the historical discovery and characterization of the MAP kinase pathway. In addition we describe potential mechanisms by which inhibition of protein kinase C, the MAP kinase pathway, and potentially of p21(Cip-1/MDA6/WAF1) expression, may alter the sensitivities of leukemic and carcinoma cells to cytotoxic insults, leading to increased apoptosis and loss of clonogenicity.