An increasing number of studies indicate that cysteine cathepsins contribute to cancer progression, invasion, and metastasis. Here we provide experimental evidence that the cathepsin inhibitor Z-Phe-Gly-NHO-Bz induces rapid apoptotic death in human cancer cell lines. Notably, the Z-Phe-Gly-NHO-Bz-induced apoptosis exhibited independence of p53, caspases, and mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases. Taken together, our results prompt the hypothesis that cysteine cathepsin(s) is a universal survival factor for cancer cells, and its inhibition leads to cancer cell apoptosis. The exquisite sensitivity of human cancer cells to CATI-1 indicates that this compound and its derivatives may provide the basis for new treatment programs against a broad spectrum of malignancies.