Gallium in cancer treatment

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2002 Jun;42(3):283-96. doi: 10.1016/s1040-8428(01)00225-6.


Gallium (Ga) is the second metal ion, after platinum, to be used in cancer treatment. Its activities are numerous and various. It modifies three-dimensional structure of DNA and inhibits its synthesis, modulates protein synthesis, inhibits the activity of a number of enzymes, such as ATPases, DNA polymerases, ribonucleotide reductase and tyrosine-specific protein phosphatase. Ga alters plasma membrane permeability and mitochondrial functions. Ga salts are taken up more efficiently and more specifically by tumour cells when orally administered. New compounds have been prepared: Ga maltolate, doxorubicin-Ga-transferrin conjugate and Tris(8-quinolinolato)Ga(III), which show interesting activities. Ga toxicity is well documented in vitro and in vivo in animals. In humans, the oral administration Ga is less toxic, and allows a chronic treatment, allowing an improvement of its bioavailability in tumours, by comparison with the parenteral use. The anticancer activity of Ga salts has been demonstrated but other effects have also been noted such as many bone effects that could be useful in bone metastatic patients. Its has also been shown that a long period of administration could induce tumour fibrosis. Ga is synergistic with other anticancer drugs. Although not as potent as platinum in vitro, the anticancer activity of Ga should not be ignored, but the schedule of administration still needs to be optimised and new compounds are now under clinical investigations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Gallium / pharmacokinetics
  • Gallium / pharmacology
  • Gallium / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacology
  • Organometallic Compounds / therapeutic use


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Gallium