Apoptosis occurs via extrinsic or intrinsic signalling each triggered and regulated by many different molecular pathways. In recent years, the selective induction of apoptosis through survivin in tumour cells has been increasingly recognized as a promising approach for cancer therapy. Survivin has multiple functions including cytoprotection, inhibition of cell death, and cell-cycle regulation, especially at the mitotic process stage, all of which favour cancer survival. Many studies on clinical specimens have shown that survivin over expression is invariably up regulated in human cancers, associated with resistance to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and linked to poor prognosis, suggesting that cancer cells survive with survivin. On the basis of these findings, survivin has been proposed as an attractive target for new anticancer interventions. Survivin inhibitors recently entered clinical trials. Recent studies suggest a possible role for survivin in regulating the function of normal adult cells. However, the expression and function of survivin in normal tissues are still not well characterized and understood. Still better understandings of survivin's role in tumour versus normal cells are needed for designing the strategies to selectively disrupt survivin in cancers. In the present review, we summarise the importance of recent survivin-targeted cancer therapy for future clinical application.