The transcription factor nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB), which regulates expression of numerous antiinflammatory genes as well as genes that promote development of the prosurvival, antiapoptotic state is up-regulated in many cancer cells. The natural product resveratrol, a polyphenolic trans-stilbene, has numerous biological activities and is a known inhibitor of activation of NF-kappaB, which may account for some of its biological activities. Resveratrol exhibits activity against a wide variety of cancer cells and has demonstrated activity as a cancer chemopreventive against all stages, i.e., initiation, promotion, and progression. The biological activities of resveratrol are often ascribed to its antioxidant activity. Both antioxidant activity and biological activities of analogues of resveratrol depend upon the number and location of the hydroxy groups. In the present study, phenolic analogues of resveratrol and a series of substituted trans-stilbenes without hydroxy groups were compared with resveratrol for their abilities to inhibit the human tumor necrosis factor alpha-induced (TNF-alpha) activation of NF-kappaB, using the Panomics NF-kappaB stable reporter cell line 293/NF-kappaB-luc. A series of 75 compounds was screened to identify substituted trans-stilbenes that were more active than resveratrol. Dose-response studies of the most active compounds were carried out to obtain IC50 values. Numerous compounds were identified that were more active than resveratrol, including compounds that were devoid of hydroxy groups and were 100-fold more potent than resveratrol. The substituted trans-stilbenes that were potent inhibitors of the activation of NFkappaB generally did not exhibit antioxidant activity. The results from screening were confirmed using BV-2 microglial cells where resveratrol and analogues were shown to inhibit LPS-induced COX-2 expression.