Neuroblastoma is one of the most common solid tumours in children (8–10% of all malignancies). Over 22% of cases have N-myc amplification associated with aggressively growing neuroblastomas. Oncogene-induced sensitization of cells to apoptosis is an important mechanism for suppression of tumorigenesis. Tumour suppressors often play a critical role in linking oncogenes to apoptotic machinery. For example, activated p53 then targets both intrinsic and extrinsic pathways to promote apoptosis through transcription-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Understanding of the involved mechanisms has important clinical implications. We have employed DNA-damaging drug-induced apoptosis sensitized by oncogene N-myc as a model. DNA damaging drugs trigger high levels of p53, leading to caspase-9 activation in neuroblastoma cells. Inactivation of p53 protects cells from drug-triggered apoptosis sensitized by N-myc. These findings thus define a molecular pathway for mediating DNA-damaging drug-induced apoptosis sensitized by oncogene, and suggest that inactivation of p53 or other components of this apoptotic pathway may confer drug resistance in neuroblastoma cells. The data also suggests that inactivation of apoptotic pathways through co-operating oncogenes may be necessary for the pathogenesis of neuroblastoma with N-myc amplification.