Seven-hydroxystaurosporine (UCN-01) is a derivative of the nonselective protein kinase inhibitor staurosporine that exhibits significant selectivity for protein kinase C (PKC) in comparison to a variety of other intracellular kinases and appears to be well tolerated in vivo at concentrations sufficient to achieve effective inhibition of PKC. Because recent studies have indicated that the proliferation of malignant gliomas may result from activation of PKC-mediated pathways and, conversely, may be inhibited by blocking PKC, the authors examined the efficacy of this agent as an inhibitor of proliferation in three established and three low-passage malignant glioma cell lines in vitro. A striking inhibition of proliferation was produced by UCN-01 in each of the cell lines, with a median effective concentration of 20 to 100 nM, which correlated with the median in vitro PKC inhibitory concentration of 20 to 60 nM for this agent in the U-87 and SG-388 glioma cell lines. Inhibition-recovery studies of clonogenic activity indicated that UCN-01 had both cytostatic and cytotoxic effects on the treated cells. Proliferation resumed after short-term (6- and 24-hour) exposures to this agent; in contrast, with longer exposures, recovery of proliferative activity was severely compromised. In addition, UCN-01 enhanced the inhibition of glioma cell proliferation achieved with conventional chemotherapeutic agents, exhibiting synergistic effects with cisplatin and additive effects with 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea. In vivo studies in which UCN-01 was administered by continuous intraperitoneal infusion in subcutaneous and intracranial intraparenchymal nude rat models demonstrated significant activity against U-87 glioma xenografts at dose levels that were well tolerated. It is concluded that UCN-01 is an effective agent for the inhibition of glioma proliferation in vitro and in vivo and has potential for clinical applicability in the treatment of human gliomas.