Gold compounds as anticancer agents: Chemistry, cellular pharmacology, and preclinical studies

S. Nobili, E. Mini, I. Landini, C. Gabbiani, A. Casini, L. Messori

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438 Citations (Scopus)


Gold compounds are a class of metallodrugs with great potential for cancer treatment. During the last two decades, a large variety of gold(I) and gold(III) compounds are reported to possess relevant antiproliferative properties in vitro against selected human tumor cell lines, qualifying themselves as excellent candidates for further pharmacological evaluation. The unique chemical properties of the gold center confer very interesting and innovative pharmacological profiles to gold-based metallodrugs. The primary goal of this review is to define the state of the art of preclinical studies on anticancer gold compounds, carried out either in vitro or in vivo. The available investigations of anticancer gold compounds are analyzed in detail, and particular attention is devoted to underlying molecular mechanisms. Notably, a few biophysical studies reveal that the interactions of cytotoxic gold compounds with DNA are generally far weaker than those of platinum drugs, implying the occurrence of a substantially different mode of action. A variety of alternative mechanisms were thus proposed, of which those involving either direct mitochondrial damage or proteasome inhibition or modulation of specific kinases are now highly credited. The overall perspectives on the development of gold compounds as effective anticancer drugs with an innovative mechanism of action are critically discussed on the basis of the available experimental evidence. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-580
Number of pages31
JournalMedicinal research reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May-2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Gold compounds
  • Pharmacology
  • Preclinical drug evaluation

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