Potential Anticancer Heterometallic Fe–Au and Fe–Pd Agents: Initial Mechanistic Insights

A series of gold­(III) and palladium­(II) heterometallic complexes with new iminophosphorane ligands derived from ferrocenylphosphanes [{Cp-P­(Ph2)N-Ph}2Fe] (1), [{Cp-P­(Ph2)N-CH2-2-NC5H4}2Fe] (2), and [{Cp-P­(Ph2)N-CH2-2-NC5H4}­Fe­(Cp)] (3) have been synthesized and structurally characterized. Ligands 2 and 3 afford stable coordination complexes [AuCl2(3)]­ClO4, [{AuCl2}2(2)]­(ClO4)2, [PdCl2(3)], and [{PdCl2}2(2)]. The complexes have been evaluated for their antiproliferative properties in human ovarian cancer cells sensitive and resistant to cisplatin (A2780S/R), in human breast cancer cells (MCF7) and in a nontumorigenic human embryonic kidney cell line (HEK-293T). The highly cytotoxic trimetallic derivatives M2Fe (M = Au, Pd) are more cytotoxic to cancer cells than their corresponding monometallic fragments. Moreover, these complexes were significantly more cytotoxic than cisplatin in the resistant A2780R and the MCF7 cell lines. Studies of the interactions of the trimetallic compounds with DNA and the zinc-finger protein PARP-1 indicate that they exert anticancer effects in vitro based on different mechanisms of actions with respect to cisplatin.