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J Med Chem. 2011 Aug 25;54(16):5878-89. doi: 10.1021/jm2006047. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Synthesis and structure-activity evaluation of isatin-β-thiosemicarbazones with improved selective activity toward multidrug-resistant cells expressing P-glycoprotein.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Cancer multidrug resistance (MDR) mediated by ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters presents a significant unresolved clinical challenge. One strategy to resolve MDR is to develop compounds that selectively kill cells overexpressing the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (MDR1, P-gp, ABCB1). We have previously reported structure-activity studies based around the lead compound NSC73306 (1, 1-isatin-4-(4'-methoxyphenyl)-3-thiosemicarbazone, 4.3-fold selective). Here we sought to extend this work on MDR1-selective analogues by establishing whether 1 showed "robust" activity against a range of cell lines expressing P-gp. We further aimed to synthesize and test analogues with varied substitution at the N4-position, and substitution around the N4-phenyl ring of isatin-β-thiosemicarbazones (IBTs), to identify compounds with increased MDR1-selectivity. Compound 1 demonstrated MDR1-selectivity against all P-gp-expressing cell lines examined. This selectivity was reversed by inhibitors of P-gp ATPase activity. Structural variation at the 4'-phenyl position of 1 yielded compounds of greater MDR1-selectivity. Two of these analogues, 1-isatin-4-(4'-nitrophenyl)-3-thiosemicarbazone (22, 8.3-fold selective) and 1-isatin-4-(4'-tert-butyl phenyl)-3-thiosemicarbazone (32, 14.8-fold selective), were selected for further testing and were found to retain the activity profile of 1. These compounds are the most active IBTs identified to date.

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