KBM5 cells, derived from a patient with blast crisis Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph(+)) chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and imatinib-resistant KBM5 (KBM5-STI571) cells were found to express high levels of survivin. Inhibition of Bcr-Abl by imatinib significantly decreased survivin expression and cell viability in KBM5, but much less so in KBM5-STI571 cells. Inhibition of MEK, downstream of the Bcr-Abl signaling cascade decreased survivin expression and cell viability in both KBM5 and KBM5-STI571 cells. In addition, down-regulation of survivin by a survivin antisense oligonucleotide (Sur-AS-ODN) inhibited cell growth and induced maximal G(2)M block at 48 hours, whereas cell death was observed only at 72 hours in both KBM5 and KBM5-STI571 cells as shown by annexin V staining. Further, the combination of Sur-AS-ODN and imatinib induced more cell death in KBM5 cells than did either treatment alone. Down-regulating survivin also decreased colony-forming units (CFUs) in blast crisis CML patient samples. Our data therefore suggest that survivin is regulated by the Bcr-Abl/MAPK cascade in Ph(+) CML. The facts that down-regulating survivin expression induced cell-growth arrest and subsequent cell death regardless of the cell response to imatinib and enhanced the sensitivity to imatinib suggest the potential therapeutic utility of this strategy in patients with CML, both imatinib sensitive and resistant.