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Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has a high mortality rate worldwide. Various treatments strategies have been used against NSCLC including individualized chemotherapies, but innate or acquired cancer cell drug resistance remains a major obstacle. Recent studies revealed that the Kelch-like ECH associated protein 1/Nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Keap1/Nrf2) pathway is intimately involved in cancer progression and chemoresistance. Thus, antagonizing Nrf2 would seem to be a viable strategy in cancer therapy. In the present study a traditional Chinese medicine, triptolide, was identified that markedly inhibited expression and transcriptional activity of Nrf2 in various cancer cells, including NSCLC and liver cancer cells. Consequently, triptolide made cancer cells more chemosensitivity toward antitumor drugs both in vitro and in a xenograft tumor model system using lung carcinoma cells. These results suggest that triptolide blocks chemoresistance in cancer cells by targeting the Nrf2 pathway. Triptolide should be further investigated in clinical cancer trials.Identification of triptolide as a novel NRF2-ARE inhibitor.Triptolide suppresses NRF2 expression and ARE-dependent transcriptional activity.Triptolide sensitizes NSCLC to antitumor drugs by inhibiting Nrf2 pathway.