The loss of p300/CBP-associated protein (PCAF) expression is associated with poor clinical outcome in gastric cancer, and a potential bio-marker for invasive and aggressive tumors. However, the mechanism linking loss of PCAF to the onset of gastric cancer has not been identified. Given that PCAF and its binding partner transcriptional adaptor protein 3 (ADA3) were recently shown to regulate the intrinsic (mitochondrial) pathway to apoptosis via epigenetic regulation of phosphofurin acidic cluster sorting proteins 1 and 2 (PACS1, PACS2), we analyzed PCAF, ADA3, and PACS1/2 expression in 99 patient-matched surgical samples ranging from normal gastric mucosa, through pre-malignant chronic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia to stage I-III invasive cancers. PCAF mRNA levels were not reduced in either pre-malignant state but were significantly down-regulated in all stages of gastric cancer, commencing at AJCC stage I (p < 0.05), thus linking reduced PCAF expression with early malignant change. Furthermore, patients with combined reduction of PCAF and PACS1 had significantly poorer overall survival (p = 0.0257), confirmed in an independent dataset of 359 patients (p = 5.8 × 10e-6). At the protein level, PCAF, ADA3, and PACS1 expression were all significantly down-regulated in intestinal-type gastric cancer, and correlated with reduced progression free survival. We conclude that a pro-apoptotic mechanism centered on the intrinsic (mitochondrial) pathway and regulated by PCAF/ADA3 can influence the progression from premalignant to malignant change, and thus act as a tumor suppression mechanism in gastric cancer.