Defects in the apoptotic machinery may contribute to chemoresistance of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells. We have previously showed a deficiency in mitochondria-dependent caspase-9 activation in NSCLC H460 cells after exposure to cisplatin, a drug widely used to treat NSCLC. Here we show that, unlike cisplatin, the novel anticancer agent bortezomib efficiently induces caspase-9 activation and apoptosis in H460 cells. A comparative analysis of molecular events underlying cell death in bortezomib-treated versus cisplatin-treated H460 cells revealed that bortezomib, but not cisplatin, caused a rapid and abundant release of cytochrome c and Smac/DIABLO from mitochondria. This was associated with a marked increase in levels of the BH3-only proapoptotic protein Noxa and the antiapoptotic protein Mcl-1. Taken together, our data show that bortezomib, by promoting a proapoptotic shift in the levels of proteins involved in mitochondrial outer-membrane permeabilization, is a potent activator of the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis in NSCLC cells. Our preclinical results support further investigation of bortezomib-based therapies as a possible new treatment modality for NSCLC.