INTRODUCTION: Substituted indoles and related structures have been shown to exhibit potent anticancer activity against breast cancer cell lines. Here, the effects of structurally similar substituted indoles against the human glial cancer cell lines, 1321N1 and U87MG, have been investigated by comparing the effects of these compounds to conventional anti cancer drugs. METHODS: Cell viability in the presence of the test compounds was measured using an MTS assay and corroborated by an ATP cell proliferation assay as well as a Trypan blue exclusion test. The significance of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the process was determined using an Image-iT® LIVE ROS kit from Invitrogen. RESULTS: Both cell lines were treated with four commercial anticancer drugs and IC50 values were only reached at concentrations of 20 µM for cisplatin and 50 µM for gemcitabine over 48hrs on the 1321N1 cell line. However, the more malignant U87MG cell line was resistant to all the drugs, except for cisplatin where the IC50 value was reached at 300 µM after treatment for 48hrs. Similar studies were carried out with various substituted indoles and the cytotoxicity results on both cell lines showed that the IC50 value was reached within 90 minutes for the most potent compound at a concentration of 600 µM (1321N1) and 800 µM (U87MG). The idea that the mechanism of action of these compounds may work through the generation of ROS was investigated and this was confirmed over a similar time course using a suitable fluorogenic marker. Moreover, it was shown that the addition of an antioxidant (ascorbic acid) abolished the potency of the most active compound. CONCLUSION: Here, it has been demonstrated that certain substituted indoles are able to have a rapid, deleterious effect on the viability of two glioma cell lines and indicated that ROS generation may induce cell death.