EGFR-Targeted Pentacyclic Triterpene Analogues for Glioma Therapy

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 11;22(20):10945. doi: 10.3390/ijms222010945.


Glioma, particularly its most malignant form, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is the most common and aggressive malignant central nervous system tumor. The drawbacks of the current chemotherapy for GBM have aroused curiosity in the search for targeted therapies. Aberrantly overexpressed epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) in GBM results in poor prognosis, low survival rates, poor responses to therapy and recurrence, and therefore EGFR-targeted therapy stands out as a promising approach for the treatment of gliomas. In this context, a series of pentacyclic triterpene analogues were subjected to in vitro and in silico assays, which were conducted to assess their potency as EGFR-targeted anti-glioma agents. In particular, compound 10 was the most potent anti-glioma agent with an IC50 value of 5.82 µM towards U251 human glioblastoma cells. Taking into account its low cytotoxicity to peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), compound 10 exerts selective antitumor action towards Jurkat human leukemic T-cells. This compound also induced apoptosis and inhibited EGFR with an IC50 value of 9.43 µM compared to erlotinib (IC50 = 0.06 µM). Based on in vitro and in silico data, compound 10 stands out as a potential orally bioavailable EGFR-targeted anti-glioma agent endowed with the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

Keywords: apoptosis; epidermal growth factor receptor; glioblastoma multiforme; gliomas; molecular docking; pentacyclic triterpenes.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Binding Sites
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • ErbB Receptors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / cytology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Pentacyclic Triterpenes / chemistry*
  • Pentacyclic Triterpenes / metabolism
  • Pentacyclic Triterpenes / pharmacology


  • Pentacyclic Triterpenes
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors