Most normal and tumor cells are protected from tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα)-induced apoptosis. Here, we identify the MAP3 kinase tumor progression locus-2 (TPL2) as a player contributing to the protection of a subset of tumor cell lines. The combination of TPL2 knockdown and TNFα gives rise to a synthetic lethality phenotype via receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 1 (RIPK1)-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Whereas wild-type TPL2 rescues the phenotype, its kinase-dead mutant does not. Comparison of the molecular events initiated by small interfering RNA for TPL2 (siTPL2) ± TNFα in treatment-sensitive and -resistant lines revealed that the activation of caspase-8, downstream of miR-21-5p and cFLIP, is the dominant TPL2-dependent event. More important, comparison of the gene expression profiles of all of the tested cell lines results in the clustering of sensitive and resistant lines into distinct groups, providing proof of principle for the feasibility of generating a predictive tool for treatment sensitivity.