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Napabucasin and Related Heterocycle-Fused Naphthoquinones as STAT3 Inhibitors with Antiproliferative Activity against Cancer Cells

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journal contribution
posted on 13.07.2018, 00:00 by Hauke Löcken, Cinzia Clamor, Klaus Müller
Napabucasin (6) and its angularly anellated isomer (7), for which the synthesis is described, together with related plant-derived naphthoquinones, were evaluated in vitro against human breast cancer (MDA-MB-231) and chronic myelogenous leukemia (K562) cells. As observed for β-lapachone (3), the active naphthoquinones all induced apoptosis in a cell-cycle-independent fashion. In contrast to the pyran-fused β-lapachone (3), however, the most potent furan-fused naphthoquinones were able to redox cycle and generate superoxide in cell-based assays, which was independent of NAD­(P)­H:quinone oxido-reductase 1. In a homogeneous time-resolved fluorescence (HTRF) assays with MDA-MB-231 cells, both napabucasin (6) and isonapabucasin (7) were identified as targeting STAT3 phosphorylation. In addition, drug affinity responsive target stability assays were performed to validate a direct interaction of the naphthoquinones with STAT3. Isonapabucasin (7) turned out to be twice as potent against STAT3 as napabucasin (6) in the HTRF assay, with an EC50 in the submicromolar range, which was in excellent agreement with the potency of both agents to inhibit the growth of MDA-MB-231 cells. Moreover, molecular docking experiments predicted different binding modes to the STAT3 SH2 domain for the linearly anellated napabucasin (6) and its angularly anellated isomer (7).