Downregulation of the unfolded protein response mediates proteasome inhibitor resistance in Multiple Myeloma.The Human Immunodeficieny Virus protease inhibitor nelfinavir activates the unfolded protein response in vitro. We determined dose limiting toxicity and recommended dose for phase II of nelfinavir in combination with the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib. 12 patients with advanced hematological malignancies were treated with nelfinavir (2500 - 5000 mg/d p.o., d 1-14, 3+3 dose escalation) and bortezomib (1.3 mg/m2, d 1, 4, 8, 11; 21 day cycles). A run in phase with nelfinavir monotherapy allowed pharmakokinetic/pharmakodynamic assessment of nelfinavir in the presence or absence of concomittant bortezomib. Endpoints included dose limiting toxicity, activation of the unfolded protein response, proteasome activity, toxicity and response to trial treatment. Nelfinavir 2 x 2500 mg was the recommended phase II dose identified. Nelfinavir alone significantly upregulated expression of proteins related to the unfolded protein response in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and inhibited proteasome activity. Of 10 evaluable patients in the dose escalation cohort, 3 achieved a partial response, 4 stable disease for ≥ 2 cycles, while 3 had progressive disease as best response. In an exploratory extension cohort with 6 relapsed, bortezomib-refractory, lenalidomide-resistant myeloma patients treated at the recommended phase II dose, 3 reached a partial response, 2 a minor response and one progressive disease. The combination of nelfinavir with bortezomib is safe and shows promising signals for activity in advanced, bortezomib-refractory MM. Induction of the unfolded protein response by nelfinavir may overcome the biological features of proteasome inhibitor resistance. (Trial registration NCT01164709).