Half-Sandwich Ru(p-cymene) Compounds with Diphosphanes: In Vitro and In Vivo Evaluation As Potential Anticancer Metallodrugs

Oscar A Lenis-Rojas, Maria Paula Robalo, Ana Isabel Tomaz, Alexandra R. Fernandes, Catarina Roma-Rodrigues, Ricardo G. Teixeira, Fernanda Marques, Mónica Folgueira, Julián Yáñez, Anabel Alba Gonzalez, Martín Salamini-Montemurri, Dawrin Pech-Puch, Digna Vázquez-García, Margarita López Torres, Alberto Fernández, Jesús J. Fernández

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Ruthenium(II) complexes are currently considered attractive alternatives to the widely used platinum-based drugs. We present herein the synthesis and characterization of half-sandwich ruthenium compounds formulated as [Ru(p-cymene)(L)Cl][CF3SO3] (L = 1,1-bis(methylenediphenylphosphano)ethylene, 1; L = 1,1-bis(diphenylphosphano)ethylene, 2), which were characterized by elemental analysis, mass spectrometry, 1H and 31P{1H} NMR, UV-vis and IR spectroscopy, conductivity measurements and cyclic voltammetry. The molecular structures for both complexes were determined by single-crystal X-ray diffraction. Their cytotoxic activity was evaluated using the MTT assay against human tumor cells, namely ovarian (A2780) and breast (MCF7 and MDA-MB-231). Both complexes were active against breast adenocarcinoma cells, with complex 1 exhibiting a quite remarkable cytotoxicity in the submicromolar range. Interestingly, at concentrations equivalent to the IC50 values in the MCF7 cancer cells, complexes 1 and 2 presented lower cytotoxicity in normal human primary fibroblasts. The antiproliferative effects of 1 and 2 in MCF7 cells might be associated with the induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), leading to a combined cell death mechanism via apoptosis and autophagy. Despite the fact that in vitro a partial intercalation between complexes and DNA was observed, no MCF7 cell cycle delay or arrest was observed, indicating that DNA might not be a direct target. Complexes 1 and 2 both exhibited a moderate to strong interaction with human serum albumin, suggesting that protein targets may be involved in their mode of action. Their acute toxicity was evaluated in the zebrafish model. Complex 1 (the most toxic of the two) exhibited a lethal toxicity LC50 value about 1 order of magnitude higher than any IC50 concentrations found for the cancer cell models used, highlighting its therapeutic relevance as a drug candidate in cancer chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2914-2930
Number of pages17
JournalInorganic Chemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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