Novel antitumor agents: marine sponge alkaloids, their synthetic analogs and derivatives

Mini Rev Med Chem. 2005 Mar;5(3):319-36. doi: 10.2174/1389557053175362.


Present review describes research on novel natural antitumor agents isolated from marine sponges. More than 90 novel cytotoxic antitumor compounds and their synthetic analogs have shown confirmed activity in vitro tumor cell lines bioassay and are of current interest to NCI for further in vivo evaluation. A great problem, to use directly the reservoir of marine organisms for therapy is the very low availability and the isolation of only very small amounts of the biologically active substances from the natural materials. Thus, the synthetic chemistry is required to develop high yield synthetic methods, which are able to produce sufficient marine alkaloids for a broad biological screening. This review will present some of the aspects of the medicinal chemistry developed recently to introduce such modifications. The structures, origins, synthesis and biological activity of a selection of N-heterocyclic marine sponge alkaloids are reviewed. The emphasis is on compounds poised as potential anticancer drugs: pyrroles, pyrazines, imidazole, and other structural families. With computer program PASS some additional biological activities are also predicted, which point toward new possible applications of these compounds. This review emphasizes the role of marine sponge alkaloids as an important source of leads for drug discovery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / chemistry*
  • Alkaloids / isolation & purification
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Porifera / chemistry*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Alkaloids
  • Antineoplastic Agents