Dobutamine has been widely used for the treatment of heart failure and cardiogenic shock since the 1970s. Osteosarcoma is the most commonly observed malignant bone tumor in children. Currently, there are no effective drugs for the treatment of osteosarcoma. In the present study, the potential anticancer activity of dobutamine on human osteosarcoma cells was examined. Human osteosarcoma MG-63 cells were treated with dobutamine at various concentrations and for various incubation times. The inhibition of cell growth by dobutamine was determined by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay. Flow cytometry was utilized to evaluate the effect of dobutamine on cell apoptosis and the cell cycle. Furthermore, the expression levels of caspase-3 and caspase-9 were assessed by western blot analysis. The influence of dobutamine on cancer cell migration and invasion was additionally evaluated using wound-healing assay and the Boyden Chamber migration method. Dobutamine significantly inhibited the growth of MG-63 cells at a concentration of 10 μM or higher when incubated for 12 h or longer (P=0.023). Dobutamine augmented cell apoptosis and arrested the cell cycle in the G2/M phase. Western blot analysis revealed that dobutamine induces expression of caspase-3 and caspase-9. In addition, the invasiveness and migration of MG-63 cells was inhibited by dobutamine in a concentration-dependent manner. The results of the present study may lead to novel applications for dobutamine in the treatment of osteosarcoma.