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Issue 6, 2009
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Recent developments in ruthenium anticancer drugs

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Interest in Ru anticancer drugs has been growing rapidly since NAMI-A ((ImH+)[RuIIICl4(Im)(S-dmso)], where Im = imidazole and S-dmso = S-bound dimethylsulfoxide) or KP1019 ((IndH+)[RuIIICl4(Ind)2], where Ind = indazole) have successfully completed phase I clinical trials and an array of other Ru complexes have shown promise for future development. Herein, the recent literature is reviewed critically to ascertain likely mechanisms of action of Ru-based anticancer drugs, with the emphasis on their reactions with biological media. The most likely interactions of Ru complexes are with: (i) albumin and transferrin in blood plasma, the former serving as a Ru depot, and the latter possibly providing active transport of Ru into cells; (ii) collagens of the extracellular matrix and actins on the cell surface, which are likely to be involved in the specific anti-metastatic action of Ru complexes; (iii) regulatory enzymes within the cell membrane and/or in the cytoplasm; and (iv) DNA in the cell nucleus. Some types of Ru complexes can also promote the intracellular formation of free radical species, either through irradiation (photodynamic therapy), or through reactions with cellular reductants. The metabolic pathways involve competition among reduction, aquation, and hydrolysis in the extracellular medium; binding to transport proteins, the extracellular matrix, and cell-surface biomolecules; and diffusion into cells; with the extent to which individual drugs participate in various steps along these pathways being crucial factors in determining whether they are mainly anti-metastatic or cytotoxic. This diversity of modes of action of Ru anticancer drugs is also likely to enhance their anticancer activities and to reduce the potential for them to develop tumour resistance. New approaches to metabolic studies, such as X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence microscopy, are required to provide further mechanistic insights, which could lead to the rational design of improved Ru anticancer drugs.

Graphical abstract: Recent developments in ruthenium anticancer drugs

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Article information

26 Feb 2009
10 Jul 2009
First published
13 Aug 2009

Metallomics, 2009,1, 458-470
Article type
Critical Review

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