Therapeutic options to inhibit growth of human NETs of the GEP system are limited. Since NSAIDs might provide an antiproliferative treatment alternative with acceptable toxicity, we examined the effects of different NSAIDs on growth and survival in a representative set of human GEP NET cell lines. Growth and apoptosis were determined based on cell numbers, cell-cycle analyses, kinase assays, DNA fragmentation and PARP cleavage. Expression of COX and cell cycle-regulatory molecules was examined by immunoblotting and reporter gene assays. Depending on the drug and cell line investigated, NSAID treatment resulted in profound growth inhibition of GEP NET cells. Growth-inhibitory effects were achieved with either COX-2 selective (NS398) or unselective (indomethacin, sulindac) compounds. Cell-cycle analyses documented a G1 arrest in NSAID-treated GEP NET populations. In addition, 100 microM sulindac or indomethacin induced apoptosis. All 3 COX inhibitors prevented CDK-2 activation. In parallel to the NSAID-mediated reduction of CDK-2 activity, p21(cip-1) promoter activity and cellular p21(cip-1) levels increased and p21(cip-1) was sequestered into CDK-2 complexes. Thus, the G1 arrest likely resulted from p21(cip-1)-dependent inhibition of CDK-2 activity. At therapeutically relevant concentrations, sulindac significantly reduced GEP NET cell numbers, whereas IFN-alpha and octreotide remained ineffective. The extent of growth inhibition in GEP NETs was comparable to the antiproliferative effects of sulindac in established NSAID-sensitive cell models. NSAIDs acted as potent antiproliferative agents in GEP NET cells via G1 cell-cycle arrest and might therefore offer a therapeutic alternative to current treatment modalities.