AIMS: Ovarian cancer (OC) has the highest mortality rate of all gynecological cancers. Currently, the first-line OC treatment consists of cytoreductive surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy. However, most patients develop chemoresistance after the first-line treatment limits the success of treatment. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify effective therapeutic agents. MAIN METHODS: Cell viabilities were detected by MTS assay; Annexin V-FITC/PI assay and western blotting assay were performed to analyze the apoptotic cells in vitro; An immunofluorescence assay was performed to analyze the TUNEL(+) apoptotic cells in vivo; Patient-derived xenografts were established to test the in vivo antitumor effects; The key proteins of p53, caspase-mediated apoptotic pathway and Akt/mTOR pathway were detected by Western blotting. KEY FINDINGS: Icaritin, a prenylflavonoid derivative from Epimedium Genus, inhibited the proliferation of drug-sensitive OC cells (OV2008 and C13*) and cisplatin resistant OC cells A2780cp. Icaritin induced OC cell apoptosis in vitro, as indicated by the increase of Annexin V(+)/PI(+) apoptotic cells analyzed with flow cytometry, and the cleavage of caspase 9, caspase 3 and poly-ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) detected with western blotting. Icaritin also inhibited tumor growth and induced OC cells apoptosis in patient-derived xenografts, as indicated by the tumor growth delay and increase of TUNEL-positive cells in tumor tissues. The icaritin-induced OC cell apoptosis may be associated with the activation of p53 and the suppression of Akt/mTOR pathway. SIGNIFICANCE: This study sheds light on the underlying mechanisms of antitumor effect of icaritin, and warrants clinical trial for treatment of OC.