Most solid tumors express the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) protein, a target of NSAIDs. COX-2 overexpression in tumorsis considered a predictor of more advanced stage disease and of worse prognosis in a number of studies investigating solid malignancies. Therefore, NSAIDs are evaluated as anti-cancer drugs. NSAIDs inhibit proliferation, invasiveness of tumors, and angiogenesis and overcome apoptosis resistance in a COX-2 dependent and independent manner. This review will focus on the rationale behind NSAIDs, including selective COX-2 inhibitors, in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic drugs or novel molecular targeted drugs. Studies investigating anti-cancer effects of NSAIDs on cell lines and xenograft models have shown modulation of the Akt, NF-kappa B, tyrosine kinase and the death receptor-mediated apoptosis pathways. COX-2 expression in tumors is not yet used as biomarker in the clinic. Despite the increased risk on cardiovascular toxicity induced by selective COX-2 inhibitors, several ongoing clinical trials are still investigating the therapeutic benefits of NSAIDs in oncology. The anti-tumor effects in these trials balanced with the side effects data will define the precise role of selective COX-2 inhibitors in the treatment of cancer patients. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.