A new generation of ferrociphenols leads to a great diversity of reactive metabolites, and exhibits remarkable antiproliferative properties†
Organometallic compounds bearing the redox motif [ferrocenyl-ene-phenol] have very promising antiproliferative properties which have been further improved by incorporating pertinent substituents able to engender new mechanisms. Here we show that novel ferrociphenols bearing a hydroxypropyl chain exhibit strong antiproliferative effects, in most cases much better than those of cisplatin, tamoxifen, or of previously described ferrociphenols devoid of this terminal OH. This is illustrated, in the case of one of these compounds, by its IC50 values of 110 nM for MDA-MB-231 triple negative breast cancer cells and of 300 nM for cisplatin-resistant A2780cisR human ovarian cancer cells, and by its GI50 values lower than 100 nM towards a series of melanoma and renal cancer cell lines of the NCI-60 panel. Interestingly, oxidative metabolism of these hydroxypropyl-ferrociphenols yields two kinds of quinone methides (QMs) that readily react with various nucleophiles, such as glutathione, to give 1,6- and 1,8-adducts. Protonation of these quinone methides generates numerous reactive metabolites leading eventually to many rearrangement and cleavage products. This unprecedented and fully characterized metabolic profile involving a wide range of electrophilic metabolites that should react with cell macromolecules may be linked to the remarkable profile of antiproliferative activities of this new series. Indeed, the great diversity of unexpected reactive metabolites found upon oxidation will allow them to adapt to various situations present in the cancer cell. These data initiate a novel strategy for the rational design of anticancer molecules, thus opening the way to new organometallic potent anticancer drug candidates for the treatment of chemoresistant cancers.