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Novel Gold Complexes with Nitrogen Acyclic Carbenes and their Applications as Anticancer Agents
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1  Departamento Química Inorgánica, Instituto de Síntesis Química y Catálisis Homogénea (ISQCH). Universidad de Zaragoza-CSIC, 50009, Zaragoza, España

Published: 01 November 2017 by MDPI in 3rd International Electronic Conference on Medicinal Chemistry session ECMC-3

Gold drugs are well known and have been widely studied for their potential chemotherapeutic properties in anticancer treatments, although they have some limitations as for example chemical stability.1,2

Gold N-heterocyclic carbenes are excellent s-donor ligands and forms extraordinarily stable gold derivatives, and indeed NHC-Au(I) species display high cytotoxicity in vitro (low micromolar to nanomolar) against a variety of human cancer cell lines with different degrees of selectivity. In the search for new alternatives of stable and robust derivatives, not only N-heterocyclic but N-acyclic carbenes could be explored. 2,3,4

N-acyclic carbenes are easily accessible via the reaction between isocyanide gold compounds and different amines (Scheme 1). The reaction between one of those derivatives with different thiol groups, in presence of K2CO3, as deprotonating agent, has led to a family of gold(I) NAC thiolate derivatives with high cytotoxicity (Scheme 2).

Scheme 1- Reactions between isocyanide gold(I) compounds and different amines.

Scheme 2 - Reaction between compound 4 and different thiol derivatives.

Biological activity was measured by the MTT assay for different human cancer cell lines: A-549 (lung cancer) and MiaPaca2 (pancreatic cancer) for the different synthetized compounds, calculating their IC50. The IC50 values found are in the very low micromolar range and this means an excellent start point for future the development of these compounds as anticancer drugs.


1 B. Bertrand, A. Casini, Dalton Trans., 2014, 43, 4209.

2 B. Bertrand, A. Citta, I. L. Franken, M. Picquet, A. Folda, V. Scalcon, M. P. Rigobello ,  P. Le Gendre, A. Casini, E. Bodio. J. Biol. Inorg. Chem., 2015, 20, 1005–1020.

3 O. Dada, D. Curran, C. O'Beirne, H. Müller-Bunz, X. Zhu, M. Tacke. J. Organomet. Chem. 2017, 840, 30-37.

4 W. Liu, R. Gust.  Coord. Chem. Revs., 2016, 329, 191-213.