Arsenic trioxide (As2O3) can induce apoptosis in many tumors. However, the associated mechanisms are not clearly understood. We found that As2O3 significantly inhibited the proliferation of WSU-CLL cells and induced apoptosis in dose- and time-dependent manners. WSU-CLL cells treated with 2μM As2O3 showed survivin down-regulation and p53 up-regulation. Survivin siRNA combined with As2O3 further inhibited the proliferation of WSU-CLL cells. p53 inhibition by siRNA prevented the down-regulation of survivin by As2O3 and prevented the As2O3-induced cytotoxicity of WSU-CLL cells. These results suggest that As2O3 may be of therapeutic value for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.