BACKGROUND: MyD88 is an adaptor molecule in Toll-like receptor and interleukin 1 receptor signaling implicated in tumorigenesis through proinflammatory mechanisms. We have recently reported that MyD88 also directly promotes optimal activation of the Ras/Erk pathway. Here we investigate MyD88 implication in the maintenance of the transformation of Ras-dependent tumors. METHODS: RNA interference was used to inhibit MyD88 expression in the colon cancer cell lines HCT116 and LS513. Apoptosis, DNA damage, p53 function, ERCC1 levels, and Ras and inflammatory signaling pathways were analyzed. Using in vitro assays and xenotransplantation in nude mice (five per group), HCT116 tumor growth was assessed following MyD88 knockdown in presence or absence of chemotherapy. RESULTS: MyD88 exerts antiapoptotic functions in colon cancer cells via the Ras/Erk, but not the NF-kappaB, pathway. MyD88 inhibition leads to defective ERCC1-dependent DNA repair and to accumulation of DNA damage, resulting in cancer cell death via p53. Furthermore, we show that knocking down MyD88 sensitizes cancer cells to genotoxic agents such as platinum salts in vitro and in vivo. Indeed, HCT116 tumor growth following treatment with a combination of suboptimal MyD88 inhibition and suboptimal doses of cisplatin (fold tumor increase = 5.4 +/- 1.6) was statistically significantly reduced in comparison to treatment with doxycycline alone (12.4 +/- 3.1) or with cisplatin alone (12.5 +/- 2.6) (P = .005 for both, one-sided Student t test). CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, these results indicate a novel and original link between inflammation, DNA repair, and cancer, and provide further rationale for MyD88 as a potential therapeutic target in Ras-dependent cancers, in the context of concomitant genotoxic chemotherapy.