New chemical entities, steroidal C-17 benzoazoles (5, 6, 9 and 10) and pyrazines (14 and 15) were rationally designed and synthesized. The key reaction for synthesis of the benzoazoles involved the nucleophilic vinylic "addition-elimination" substitution reaction of 3beta-acetoxy-17-chloro-16-formylandrosta-5,16-diene (2) and benzoazole nucleophiles, while that for synthesis of pyrazines involved palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling reaction of 17-iodoandrosta-5,16-dien-3beta-ol (13) with tributylstannyl diazines. Some of the compounds were shown to be potent inhibitors of human CYP17 enzyme as well as potent antagonist of both wild type and mutant androgen receptors (AR). The most potent CYP17 inhibitors were 3beta-hydroxy-17-(1H-benzimidazole-1-yl)androsta-5,16-diene (5, code named VN/124-1), 3beta-hydroxy-17-(5(1)-pyrimidyl)androsta-5,16-diene (15) and 17-(1H-benzimidazole-1-yl)androsta-4,16-dien-3-one (6), with IC(50) values of 300, 500 and 915 nM, respectively. Compounds 5, 6, 14 and 15 were effective at preventing binding of (3)H-R1881 (methyltrienolone, a stable synthetic androgen) to both the mutant LNCaP AR and the wild-type AR, but with a 2.2- to 5-fold higher binding efficiency to the latter. Compounds 5 and 6 were also shown to be potent pure AR antagonists. The cell growth studies showed that 5 and 6 inhibit the growth of DHT-stimulated LNCaP and LAPC4 prostate cancer cells with IC(50) values in the low micromolar range (i.e., <10 microM). Their inhibitory potencies were comparable to that of casodex but remarkably superior to that of flutamide. The pharmacokinetics of compounds 5 and 6 in mice were investigated. Following s.c. administration of 50 mg/kg of 5 and 6, peak plasma levels of 16.82 and 5.15 ng/mL, respectively, occurred after 30 to 60 min, both compounds were cleared rapidly from plasma (terminal half-lives of 44.17 and 39.93 min, respectively), and neither was detectable at 8 h. Remarkably, compound 5 was rapidly converted into a metabolite tentatively identified as 17-(1H-benzimidazol-1-yl)androsta-3-one. When tested in vivo, 5 proved to be very effective at inhibiting the growth of androgen-dependent LAPC4 human prostate tumor xenograft, while 6 was ineffective. Compound 5 (50 mg/kg/twice daily) resulted in a 93.8% reduction (P = 0.00065) in the mean final tumor volume compared with controls, and it was also significantly more effective than castration. To our knowledge, this is the first example of an antihormonal agent (an inhibitor of androgen synthesis (CYP17 inhibitor)/antiandrogen) that is significantly more effective than castration in suppression of androgen-dependent prostate tumor growth. In view of these impressive anticancer properties, compound 5 is a strong candidate for development for the treatment of human prostate cancer.