NCI 60 cell line screen

The Developmental Therapeutics Program (DTP) of the National Cancer Institute runs an anti-cancer screening programwhich includes a cell-based assay that evaluates compounds for their ability to inhibit the growth of human tumor cells in culture. The assay is called the NCI 60 Cell Screen. After registration anyone can submit structures on-line for screening. The structures are reviewed by NCI staff and considered for testing in this assay; not all structures will be selected for testing. Researchers from all over the world submit thousands of compounds every year. The assay is run at no cost to the submitter but they must cover the cost to have their materials shipped to the NCI facilities.

Background and History

Some notes on why the screen was developed and why it is still around

Registering as a DTP supplier

Before you can submit compounds, you must register for an on-line account as a compound supplier with DTP. This allows you access to the on-line submission form and also allows you to retrieve testing status updates and testing data.

Submitting compounds to DTP

The chemical structure of the proposed submission must first be supplied to DTP on-line for evaluation. After review and if accepted for testing, the supplier is sent instructions for shipping to the NCI facility. Provisions are available to maintain the confidentiality of the structure and data for a limited but useful period of time.

Retrieving and evaluating data

Once an experiment has been run and calculated, the data is available from your supplier on-line account. The usual presentation of the data is in a form we call the meangraph.


COMPARE was developed by Ken Paull in the late 1980s and has proved to be an extremely useful tool in investigating the mechanism by which compounds inhibit cell growth.

How to use the data to plan future synthetic targets

For compounds that show activity, there are a variety of tools that can be used to prioritize the next set of compounds to make.

What happens after a compound has been screened?

What kinds of further tests are there and what are the criteria for deciding whether a compound should be tested in them. When do I know if I've discovered a drug?

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