It has been well-characterized that the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) physiologically regulates systemic arterial pressure. However, RAS signaling has also been shown to increase cell proliferation during malignancy, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are able to decrease pro-survival signaling by inhibiting anti-apoptotic molecules and suppressing caspase activity. In this study, the apoptotic effects of telmisartan, a type of ARB, was evaluated using a non-cancerous human renal cell line (HEK) and a human renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cell line (786). Both types of cells were treated with telmisartan for 4 h, 24 h, and 48 h, and then were assayed for levels of apoptosis, caspase-3, and Bcl-2 using MTT assays, flow cytometry, and immunostaining studies. Analysis of variance was used to identify significant differences between these data (P < 0.05). Following the treatment of 786 cells with 100 µM and 200 µM telmisartan, a marked inhibition of cell proliferation was observed. 50 µM cisplatin also caused high inhibition of these cells. Moreover, these inhibitions were both concentration- and time-dependent (P < 0.05). Various apoptotic effects were also observed compared with control cells at the 24 h and 48 h timepoints assayed (P < 0.001). Furthermore, positive caspase-3 staining and down-regulation of Bcl-2 were detected, consistent with induction of cell death. In contrast, treatment of HEK cells with telmisartan did not produce an apoptotic effect compared with control cells at the 24 h timepoint (P > 0.05). Treatment with cisplatin promoted in HEK cells high index of apoptosis (P < 0.001). Taken together, these results suggest that telmisartan induces apoptosis via down-regulation of Bcl-2 and involvement of caspase-3 in human RCC cells.