In spite of the Betulinic acid (BA) being recognized as anticancerous source; its further use in clinical development is greatly hampered because of its poor pharmacokinetic properties. To circumvent these limitations, we synthesized a PI3K target based library of 18 triazole based derivatives and we identified a C-3 cyano analog of betulinic acid (CBA) with significant cell death effects with 5–7 fold higher potency than BA in various cancers. Importantly, no such report is available demonstrating the involvement of BA or its structural analogs in the modulation of PI3K pathway. Using, human leukemia HL-60 cells as a model, we for the first time report that CBA decreased expression of PI3K p110α, p85α, and pAKT in HL-60. Furthermore, we could find significant depletion of pGSK3β, cyclin D1 and increased expression of p21/cip, p27/Kip proteins. CBA induced G0/G1 cell cycle arrest, increased sub-G0 DNA fraction and annexin V binding of the cells besides imparting the typical surface features of cell death. Also, this target specific inhibition was associated with mitochondrial apoptosis as was reflected by expression studies of various proteins together with reactive oxygen species generation and decline in mitochondrial trans membrane potential. The apoptotic effectors i.e., caspase 8 and caspase 9 were found to get upregulated besides PI3K associated DNA repair enzyme i.e., PARP cleavage was observed. Thus, our results elucidated that CBA or other BA based small molecules inhibit PI3K/AKT pathway with induction of subsequent cancer cell death which may be useful therapeutic strategy against leukemias and possibly other cancers. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.