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J Med Chem. 2001 Mar 1;44(5):672-80.

A new class of nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors: design and synthesis of chromone and xanthone derivatives and inhibition of the P450 enzymes aromatase and 17 alpha-hydroxylase/C17,20-lyase.

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Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Bologna, Via Belmeloro 6, I-40126 Bologna, Italy.


Aromatase (P450arom) is a target of pharmacological interest for the treatment of breast cancer. In this paper, we report the design, synthesis, and in vitro biological evaluation of a series of new (di)benzopyranone-based inhibitors of this enzyme. The design of the new compounds was guided by a CoMFA model previously developed for a series of nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors. Both the chromone and the xanthone nuclei were taken as molecular skeletons, and the functions supposed to be critical for binding to the aromatase active site - a heterocyclic ring (imidazole or 1,3,4-triazole) linked to the aromatic moiety by a methylene unit and an H-bond accepting function (CN, NO(2), Br) located on the aromatic ring at a suitable distance from the heterocyclic nitrogen carrying the lone pair--were attached to them. The chromone, xanthone, and flavone derivatives were prepared by conventional synthetic methods from the appropriate methyl analogues. Aromatase inhibitory activities were determined by the method of Thompson and Siiteri, using human placental microsomes and [1 beta,2 beta-(3)H]testosterone as the labeled substrate. All the compounds were also tested on 17 alpha-hydroxylase/C17,20-lyase (P450 17), an enzyme of therapeutic interest for the treatment of prostatic diseases. The goal to find new potent inhibitors of aromatase was reached with the xanthone derivatives 22d,e (IC(50) values 43 and 40 nM, respectively), which exceeded the potency of the known reference drug fadrozole and also showed high selectivity with respect to P450 17. Moreover, compounds 22g-i based on the same xanthonic nucleus showed fairly high potency as P450 17 inhibitors (IC(50) values 220, 130, and 42 nM, respectively). Thus, they might be new leads for the development of drug candidates for androgen-dependent diseases.

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