Penfluridol suppresses glioblastoma tumor growth by Akt-mediated inhibition of GLI1

Oncotarget. 2017 May 16;8(20):32960-32976. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.16515.


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common brain tumor with poor survival rate. Our results show that penfluridol, an antipsychotic drug significantly reduced the survival of ten adult and pediatric glioblastoma cell lines with IC50 ranging 2-5 μM after 72 hours of treatment and induced apoptosis. Penfluridol treatment suppressed the phosphorylation of Akt at Ser473 and reduced the expression of GLI1, OCT4, Nanog and Sox2 in several glioblastoma cell lines in a concentration-dependent manner. Inhibiting Akt with LY294002 and siRNA, or inhibiting GLI1 using GANT61, cyclopamine, siRNA and CRISPR/Cas9 resulted in enhanced cell growth suppressive effects of penfluridol. On the other hand, overexpression of GLI1 significantly attenuated the effects of penfluridol. Our results further demonstrated that penfluridol treatment inhibited the growth of U87MG tumors by 65% and 72% in subcutaneous and intracranial in vivo glioblastoma tumor models respectively. Immunohistochemical and western blot analysis of tumors revealed reduced pAkt (Ser 473), GLI1, OCT4 and increase in caspase-3 cleavage and TUNEL staining, confirming in vitro findings. Taken together, our results indicate that overall glioblastoma tumor growth suppression by penfluridol was associated with Akt-mediated inhibition of GLI1.

Keywords: antipsychotic drug; glioblastoma; in vivo; intracranial; neurosphere.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Penfluridol / administration & dosage*
  • Penfluridol / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1 / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1
  • Penfluridol
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt