BACKGROUND: Mutations of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are a possible molecular target for cancer therapy. EGFR is frequently amplified in glioblastomas and 30 to 40% of glioblastomas also express the deletion mutation EGFRvIII. This frequent oncogenic mutation provides an opportunity for identifying new anti-glioblastoma therapies. In this study, we sought small molecule inhibitors specific for cancer cells expressing EGFRvIII, using isogenic parental cells without EGFRvIII as a control.
RESULTS: A screen of the NCI small molecule diversity set identified one compound, NSC-154829, which consistently inhibited growth of different human glioblastoma cells expressing EGFRvIII, but permitted normal growth of matched control cells. NSC-154829 had no previously established medicinal use, but has a purine-like structural component. Further experiments showed this compound increased apoptosis in cells with EGFRvIII, and moderately affected the expression of p21, independent of any changes in p53 levels or in Akt phosphorylation. CONCLUSION: These initial results suggest that NSC-154829 or a closely related structure might be further investigated for its potential as an anti-glioblastoma drug, although its precise molecular mechanism is still undefined.