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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Lipophilic aroylhydrazone chelator HNTMB and its multiple effects on ovarian cancer cells

Kyu Kwang Kim1, Thilo S Lange12, Rakesh K Singh1 and Laurent Brard1*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Therapeutics Laboratory, Program in Women's Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Women and Infants' Hospital of RI, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI 02905, USA

2 Division of Biology and Medicine, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:72  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-72

Published: 25 February 2010



Metal chelators have gained much attention as potential anti-cancer agents. However, the effects of chelators are often linked solely to their capacity to bind iron while the potential complexation of other trace metals has not been fully investigated. In present study, we evaluated the effects of various lipophilic aroylhydrazone chelators (AHC), including novel compound HNTMB, on various ovarian cancer cell lines (SKOV-3, OVCAR-3, NUTU-19).


Cell viability was analyzed via MTS cytotoxicity assays and NCI60 cancer cell growth screens. Apoptotic events were monitored via Western Blot analysis, fluorescence microscopy and TUNEL assay. FACS analysis was carried out to study Cell Cycle regulation and detection of intracellular Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)


HNTMB displayed high cytotoxicity (IC50 200-400 nM) compared to previously developed AHC (oVtBBH, HNtBBH, StBBH/206, HNTh2H/315, HNI/311; IC50 0.8-6 μM) or cancer drug Deferoxamine, a hexadentate iron-chelator (IC50 12-25 μM). In a NCI60 cancer cell line screen HNTMB exhibited growth inhibitory effects with remarkable differences in specificity depending on the cell line studied (GI50 10 nM-2.4 μM). In SKOV-3 ovarian cancer cells HNTMB treatment led to chromatin fragmentation and activation of the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways of apoptosis with specific down-regulation of Bcl-2. HNTMB caused delayed cell cycle progression of SKOV-3 through G2/M phase arrest. HNTMB can chelate iron and copper of different oxidation states. Complexation with copper lead to high cytotoxicity via generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) while treatment with iron complexes of the drug caused neither cytotoxicity nor increased ROS levels.


The present report suggests that both, non-complexed HNTMB as a chelator of intracellular trace-metals as well as a cytotoxic HNTMB/copper complex may be developed as potential therapeutic drugs in the treatment of ovarian and other solid tumors.