Toll-like receptor-3 (TLR3), a member of the pathogen recognition receptor family, has been reported to activate immune response and to exhibit pro-apoptotic activity against some tumor cells. However it is unclear whether TLR3 has same function against chicken lymphoma. In this paper we investigated the effect of TLR3 activation on a Mareks disease lymphoma-derived chicken cell line, MDCC-MSB1. The TLR3 agonist poly (I:C) activated TLR3 pathway and inhibited tumor cells proliferation through caspase-dependent apoptosis. Using pharmacological approaches, we found that an interferon-independent mechanism involving Toll-IL-1-receptor domain-containing adapter-inducing IFN-α (TRIF) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) causes the apoptosis of MDCC-MSB1 cells. This is the first report about the function of TLR3 in chicken T-cell lymphoma, especially in signal pathway. The mechanisms underlying TLR3-mediated apoptosis may contribute to the development of new drug to treat lymphomas and oncovirus infections.