Two isoforms of cyclooxygenase (COX) are known, and to date most studies have implicated COX-2 in the development and progression of various human cancers. Increasing evidence suggests that COX-1 may also play a similar role. Indeed, we have recently observed that the dual COX-1/COX-2 inhibitor indomethacin induces apoptosis in human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines more effectively than the selective COX-2 inhibitors, possibly implicating COX-1 in HCC. In this study we investigated the expression of COX-1 in non-tumor and malignant human liver tissues, as well as the effects of the highly selective COX-1 inhibitor SC-560 on cell growth and apoptosis in human HCC cell lines. Expression of COX-1 was detected in nearly all the samples assayed, although with a high variability between non-tumoral (NT) and malignant tissues. The percentage of COX-1 positive cells was significantly higher in the NT tissues than in the tumors (p<0.0001). In well-differentiated HCC COX-1 expression was significantly higher than in the poorly-differentiated tissues (p<0.05). SC-560 showed a dose- and time-dependent inhibitory effect on HCC cell growth. The combination of the COX-1 inhibitor with nimesulide and CAY10404, two selective COX-2 inhibitors, resulted in additive effects on cell growth inhibition. SC-560 also inhibited colony formation in soft agar and induced apoptosis in HCC cells in a dose-dependent manner. Moreover, SC-560 decreased the levels of the anti-apoptotic proteins survivin and XIAP and activated caspase-3 and -7 in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. In conclusion, we report for the first time that the selective COX-1 inhibitor SC-560 exhibits anti-tumor and apoptotic effects in human HCC cells. Overall, our previous and present results suggest that both COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitors may have potential therapeutic implications in HCC patients.