Senescence is a cellular response to a variety of stress signals that is characterized by a stable withdrawal from the cell cycle and major changes in cell morphology and physiology. While most research on senescence has been performed on non-cancer cells, it is evident that cancer cells can also mount a senescence response. In this Review, we discuss how senescence can be induced in cancer cells. We describe the distinctive features of senescent cancer cells and how these changes in cellular physiology might be exploited for the selective eradication of these cells (senolysis). We discuss activation of the host immune system as a particularly attractive way to clear senescent cancer cells. Finally, we consider the challenges and opportunities provided by a 'one-two punch' sequential treatment of cancer with pro-senescence therapy followed by senolytic therapy.