Scientists have extended the spectrum of anticancer agents by including new gold complexes

A new group of complex compounds with significant anticancer effects has been developed at the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials (RCPTM). Scientists from the research group Biologically Active Complexes and Molecular Magnets took the “golden” route again after some years, using this precious metal to prepare organometallic anticancer compounds.

New substances, which have already been protected by a national patent, are significantly more effective than the most currently used complex drug cisplatin. At the same time, they do not show significant negative effects on healthy human liver cells.

“One of the general scientific objectives of our team is to extend the spectrum of anticancer agents known to date by those that are more effective than current drugs based mainly on platinum complexes, with adverse side effects being even lower. Our newest contribution to the desired goal is gold coordination compounds. They differ dramatically from the previously presented substances containing gold, patented in 2016, in composition and structure. These are so-called organometallic compounds characterised by the presence of a solid covalent bond between gold and carbon atoms from one of the coordinated ligands,” explained by the head of the group Zdeněk Trávníček.

The use of highly effective organometallic gold complexes in anticancer therapy, specifically in the treatment of osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and ovarian cancer, including cisplatin-resistant ovarian tumours, has been protected since last July by a patent called N-heterocyclic carbene complexes of gold with bicyclic N-donor ligands and using these complexes to prepare anticancer therapy medicaments (CZ 307954 B6, původci: Trávníček, Z.; Vančo, J.; Dvořák, Z.).

“As for the scope of efficacy on human tumour cell lines, and at the same time the degree of efficacy, these compounds are comparable to our previous gold complexes. These substances are up to 10 times more effective than the most widely used complex drug cisplatin, with their toxicity to healthy human liver cells being negligible,” said another member of the research group and one of the authors of the patent Ján Vančo.

It took the team about three years to develop these substances. “We are extremely pleased to have been awarded the patent, especially within this period of turbulence at the university. It goes to show that we are still able to achieve significant results,” said Zdeněk Trávníček.

Olomouc scientists have been focusing on anti-tumour agents for many years. In the past, Professor Zdeněk Trávníček’s team has obtained a patent for gold-, copper-, iron-, platinum- or tantalum-based compounds. They all have considerable anticancer effects, some of them having anti-inflammatory effects as well. However, the patent originators point out that the journey to using the prepared substances as pharmaceuticals is still long and complex, and many more experiments and collaborations with strong partners in both biomedical and pharmaceutical industries are needed.