The protein kinase C (PKC) family consists of 10 related serine/threonine protein kinases some of which are critical regulators of cell proliferation, survival and cell death. While early studies relied on broad spectrum chemical activators or inhibitors of this family, the generation of isoform specific tools has greatly facilitated our understanding of the contribution of specific PKC isoforms to cell proliferation and apoptosis. These studies suggest that PKC-alpha, PKC-epsilon, and the atypical PKC's, PKC-lambda/iota and PKC-zeta, preferentially function to promote cell proliferation and survival, while the novel isoform, PKC-delta is an important regulator of apoptosis. The essential role of this kinase family in both cell survival and apoptosis suggests that specific isoforms may function as molecular sensors, promoting cell survival or cell death depending on environmental cues. Given their central role in cell and tissue homeostasis, it is not surprising that the expression or activity of some of these kinases is altered in human diseases, particularly cancer.