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Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry and molecular biology

Publication Details

Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, 2011, Vol. 19, Pages 2306 – 2625


A series of azetidin-2-ones substituted at positions 2, 3 and 4 of the azetidinone ring scaffold were synthesised and evaluated for antiproliferative, cytotoxic and tubulin binding activity. In these compounds, the cis double bond of the vascular targeting agent combretastatin A-4 is replaced with the azetidinone ring in order to enhance the antiproliferative effects displayed by combretastatin A-4 and prevent the cis/trans isomerization that is associated with inactivation of combretastatin A-4. The series of azetidinones was synthetically accessible via the Staudinger and Reformatsky reactions. Of a diverse range of heterocyclic derivatives, 3-(2-thienyl) analogue 28 and 3-(3-thienyl) analogue 29 displayed the highest potency in human MCF-7 breast cancer cells with IC50 values of 7nM and 10nM respectively, comparable to combretastatin A-4. Compounds from this series also exhibited potent activity in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and in the NCI60 cell line panel. No significant toxicity was observed in normal murine breast epithelial cells. The presence of larger, bulkier groups at the 3-position, for example 3-naphthyl derivative 21 and 3-benzothienyl derivative 26, resulted in relatively lower antiproliferative activity in the micromolar range. Tubulin-binding studies of 28 (IC50=1.37μM) confirmed that the molecular target of this series of compounds is tubulin. These novel 3-(thienyl) β-lactam antiproliferative agents are useful scaffolds for the development of tubulin-targeting drugs.