Functional nanomaterials that included gold, silver nanoparticles and single wall carbon nanotubes were delivered to two cell lines (MLO-Y4 osteocytic cells and HeLa cervical cancer cells) in various concentrations. The cells were found to uptake the nanomaterials in a relatively short time, a process that significantly affected the shape and the size of the cells. The percentage of cellular death, due to the delivery of these nanomaterials, was found to be the highest for carbon nanotubes and increased gradually with the concentration of these nanostructures. Moreover, when the nanomaterials were delivered to the cells combined with commonly used chemotherapeutic agents such as etoposide or dexamethasone, the number of the cells that died increased significantly (100–300%) as compared with the case when only the nanomaterials or the chemotherapeutic agents were delivered. The experimental results were confirmed by Caspase 3 studies, indicating a strong interaction between the nanomaterials used in this study and the protein structure of the cells, which allowed a more effective action of the apoptotic agents. These findings could be the foundation of a new class of cancer therapies that are composed of both chemotherapeutic agents and nanomaterials. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.