Robot technology identifies a Parkinsonian therapeutics repurpose to target stem cells of glioblastoma

CNS Oncol. 2020 Jun;9(2):CNS58. doi: 10.2217/cns-2020-0004. Epub 2020 May 28.


Aim: Glioblastoma is a heterogeneous lethal disease, regulated by a stem-cell hierarchy and the neurotransmitter microenvironment. The identification of chemotherapies targeting individual cancer stem cells is a clinical need. Methodology: A robotic workstation was programmed to perform a drug concentration to cell-growth analysis on an in vitro model of glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs). Mode-of-action analysis of the selected top substance was performed with manual repetition assays and acquisition of further parameters. Results: We identified 22 therapeutic potential substances. Three suggested a repurpose potential of neurotransmitter signal-modulating agents to target GSCs, out of which the Parkinson's therapeutic trihexyphenidyl was most effective. Manual repetition assays and initial mode of action characterization revealed suppression of cell proliferation, cell cycle and survival. Conclusion: Anti-neurotransmitter signaling directed therapy has potential to target GSCs. We established a drug testing facility that is able to define a mid-scale chemo responsome of in vitro cancer models, possibly also suitable for other cell systems.

Keywords: cancer stem-like cells; drug repurposing; glioblastoma; in vitro pharmacogenomics; neurotransmitters; personalized medicine; robot; translational research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Drug Repositioning / methods*
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Robotics / methods*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Neurotransmitter Agents