Many reports have cited coexpression of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and its receptors by tumor cells or cells supporting tumor growth, suggesting both autocrine and paracrine mechanisms for PDGF-mediated tumor growth. We found that a small organic molecule, N-[4-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl] 5-methylisoxazole-4-carboxamide (SU101, leflunomide), inhibited PDGF-mediated signaling events, including receptor tyrosine phosphorylation, DNA synthesis, cell cycle progression, and cell proliferation. SU101 inhibited PDGF-stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of PDGF receptor (PDGFR) beta in C6 (rat glioma) and NIH3T3 cells engineered to overexpress human PDGFRbeta (3T3-PDGFRbeta). SU101 blocked both PDGF- and epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated DNA synthesis. Previously, this compound was shown to inhibit pyrimidine biosynthesis by interfering with the enzymatic activity of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. In the current study, EGF-stimulated DNA synthesis was restored by the addition of saturating quantities of uridine, whereas PDGF-induced DNA synthesis was not, suggesting that the compound demonstrated some selectivity for the PDGFR pathway that was independent of pyrimidine biosynthesis. Selectivity was further demonstrated by the ability of the compound to block the entry of PDGF-stimulated cells into the S phase of the cell cycle, without affecting cell cycle progression of EGF-stimulated cells. In cell growth assays, SU101 selectively inhibited the growth of PDGFRbeta-expressing cell lines more efficiently than it inhibited the growth of PDGFRbeta-negative cell lines. SU101 inhibited the s.c., i.p., and intracerebral growth of a panel of cell lines including cells from glioma, ovarian, and prostate origin. In contrast, SU101 failed to inhibit the in vitro or s.c. growth of A431 and KB tumor cells, both of which express EGF receptor but not PDGFRbeta. SU101 also inhibited the growth of D1B and L1210 (murine leukemia) cells in syngeneic immunocompetent mice, without causing adverse effects on the immune response of the animals. In an i.p. model of tumor growth in syngeneic immunocompetent mice, SU101 prevented tumor growth and induced long-term survivors in animals implanted with 7TD1 (murine B-cell hybridoma) tumor cells. Because PDGFRbeta was detected on most of the tumor cell lines in which in vivo growth was inhibited by SU101, these data suggest that SU101 is an effective inhibitor of PDGF-driven tumor growth in vivo.