Oncogene amplification in tumor cells results in the overexpression of proteins that confer a growth advantage in vitro and in vivo. Amplified oncogenes can reside intrachromosomally, within homogeneously staining regions (HSRs), or extrachromosomally, within double minute chromosomes (DMs). Since previous studies have shown that low concentrations of hydroxyurea (HU) can eliminate DMs, we studied the use of HU as a gene-targeting agent in tumor cells containing extrachromosomally amplified oncogenes. In a neuroendocrine cell line (COLO 320), we have shown that HU can eliminate amplified copies of c-myc located on DMs, leading to a reduction in tumorigenicity in vitro and in vivo. To determine whether the observed reduction in tumorigenicity was due to differentiation, we next investigated whether HU could induce differentiation in HL60 cells containing extrachromosomally amplified c-myc. We compared the effects of HU, as well as two other known differentiating agents (dimethyl sulfoxide and retinoic acid), on c-myc gene copy number, c-myc expression, and differentiation in HL60 cells containing amplified c-myc genes either on DMs or HSRs. We discovered that HU and dimethyl sulfoxide reduced both c-myc gene copy number and expression and induced differentiation in cells containing c-myc amplified on DMs. These agents failed to have similar effects on HL60 cells with amplified c-myc in HSRs. By contrast, retinoic acid induced differentiation independent of the localization of amplified c-myc. These data illustrate the utility of targeting extrachromosomal DNA to modulate tumor phenotype and reveal that both HU and dimethyl sulfoxide induce differentiation in HL60 cells through DM elimination.