Inhibition of cancer cell growth by ruthenium complexes

Joji Iida*, Elisabeth T. Bell-Loncella, Marc L. Purazo, Yifeng Lu, Jesse Dorchak, Rebecca Clancy, Julianna Slavik, Mary Lou Cutler, Craig D. Shriver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies suggest that certain transition metal complexes, such as cisplatin, are efficacious for treating various cancer types, including ovarian, lung, and breast. Methods: In order to further evaluate ruthenium (Ru) complexes as potential anti-cancer agents, we synthesized and evaluated Ru-arene complexes. Two complexes with the general formula [Ru (n 6-p-cym) (N-N) Cl]+ were tested for their abilities to inhibit cancer cells. Results: The complex with o-phenylenediamine as the N-N ligand (o-PDA) significantly inhibited growth of breast (MDA-MB-231, MCF-7, SKBR-3, and SUM149), lymphoma (Raji), melanoma (Bowes), and osteosarcoma (HT1080); however, the complex with o-benzoquinonediimine (o-BQDI) was ineffective except for SUM149. In contrast, o-PDA failed to inhibit growth of human breast epithelial cells, MCF-10A. Treatment of MDA-MBA-231 cells with o-PDA resulted in a significant reduction of productions of PDGF-AA, GM-CSF, and VEGF-A proteins at the transcriptional levels. Finally, we demonstrated that o-PDA synergistically inhibited MDA-MB-231 cell growth with cyclophosphamide but not doxorubicin or paclitaxel. Conclusion: These results suggest that Ru-arene complexes are promising anti-cancer drugs that inhibit progression and metastasis by blocking multiple processes for breast and other types of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number48
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 12 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anti-cancer reagents
  • Breast cancer
  • GM-CSF
  • Growth
  • PDGF
  • Ruthenium
  • Synergy
  • VFGF


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