The marine ecosystem is a vast but largely untapped resource for potential naturally based medicines. We tested 15 compounds derived from organisms found in the Caribbean Sea (14 gorgonian octocoral-derived compounds and one sponge-derived compound) for their anticancer effects on human malignant glioma U87-MG and U373-MG cells. Eupalmerin acetate (EPA) was chosen as the lead compound based on its longer-term stability and greater cytotoxicity than those of the other compounds we tested in these cell types. EPA induced G(2)-M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis via the mitochondrial pathway; it translocated Bax from the cytoplasm to the mitochondria and dissipated the mitochondrial transmembrane potential in both cell types. EPA was found to increase phosphorylated c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) by >50% in both U87-MG and U373-MG cells. A specific JNK inhibitor, SP600125, inhibited EPA-induced apoptosis, confirming the involvement of the JNK pathway in EPA-induced apoptotic cell death. Furthermore, 7 days of daily intratumoral injections of EPA significantly suppressed the growth of s.c. malignant glioma xenografts (P < 0.01, on day 19). These results indicate that EPA is therapeutically effective against malignant glioma cells in vitro and in vivo and that it, or a similar marine-based compound, may hold promise as a clinical anticancer agent.