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Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2019;19(8):962-983. doi: 10.2174/1871520619666190312125602.

Recent Development in Indole Derivatives as Anticancer Agents for Breast Cancer.

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Laboratory of Natural Products, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Natural Products, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda (Pb) -151001, India.



Breast Cancer (BC) is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in women. Due to severe side effects and multidrug resistance, current therapies like hormonal therapy, surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy become ineffective. Also, the existing drugs for BC treatment are associated with several drawbacks such as poor oral bioavailability, non-selectivity and poor pharmacodynamics properties. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of more effective and safer anti BC agents.


This article explored in detail the possibilities of indole-based heterocyclic compounds as anticancer agents with breast cancer as their major target.


Recent literature related to indole derivatives endowed with encouraging anti BC potential is reviewed. With special focus on BC, this review offers a detailed account of multiple mechanisms of action of various indole derivatives: aromatase inhibitor, tubulin inhibitor, microtubule inhibitor, targeting estrogen receptor, DNA-binding mechanism, induction of apoptosis, inhibition of PI3K/AkT/NFkB/mTOR, and HDAC inhibitors, by which these derivatives have shown promising anticancer potential.


Exhaustive literature survey indicated that indole derivatives are associated with properties of inducing apoptosis and disturbing tubulin assembly. Indoles are also associated with the inhibition of NFkB/mTOR/PI3K/AkT and regulation of estrogen-mediated activity. Furthermore, indole derivatives have been found to modulate critical targets such as topoisomerase and HDAC. These derivatives have shown significant activity against breast cancer cells.


In BC, indole derivatives seem to be quite competent and act through various mechanisms that are well established in case of BC. This review has shown that indole derivatives can further be explored for the betterment of BC chemotherapy. A lot of potential is still hidden which demands to be discovered for upgrading BC chemotherapy.


ER; Indole; anticancer; breast cancer; chemotherapy; signal transduction.

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