Primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) is an incurable malignancy that develops in immunodeficient patients as a consequence of latent infection of B-cells with Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV). Malignant growth of KSHV-infected B cells requires the activity of the transcription factor nuclear factor (NF)-κB, which controls maintenance of viral latency and suppression of the viral lytic program. Here we show that the KSHV proteins K13 and K15 promote NF-κB activation via the protease mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma translocation protein-1 (MALT1), a key driver of NF-κB activation in lymphocytes. Inhibition of the MALT1 protease activity induced a switch from the latent to the lytic stage of viral infection, and led to reduced growth and survival of PEL cell lines in vitro and in a xenograft model. These results demonstrate a key role for the proteolytic activity of MALT1 in PEL, and provide a rationale for the pharmacological targeting of MALT1 in PEL therapy.