Carbohydrate-metal complexes and their potential as anticancer agents

Curr Med Chem. 2008;15(25):2574-91. doi: 10.2174/092986708785908978.


Platinum complex-based chemotherapy is one of the major treatment options of many malignancies. Although severe side effects occur, and only a limited spectrum of tumors can be cured, Pt compounds are used in every second therapy scheme. Thus, many different drug design strategies have been employed for improving the properties of anticancer drugs including pH or redox activation in the tumor, variation of the metal center and therefore the redox and ligand exchange properties, the application of multinuclear metal complexes, the development of targeted approaches, etc. Application of carbohydrate-metal complexes is an example of a targeted approach exploiting the biochemical and metabolic functions of diverse sugars in living organisms for transport and accumulation. Natural carbohydrates and synthetic derivatives possess a manifold of donors endowing them with the ability to coordinate metal centers and providing some additional advantages over other ligands, e.g., biocompatibility, non-toxicity, enantiomeric purity, water solubility, and well-explored chemistry. In recent years, several examples of carbohydrate compounds have been developed for diverse medicinal applications ranging from compounds with antibiotic, antiviral, or fungicidal activity and anticancer compounds. Herein, metal complexes with carbohydrate ligands are reviewed and the role of the carbohydrate carriers on the antineoplastic activity of these compounds, both in vitro and in vivo, is described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry
  • Carbohydrates / pharmacology*
  • Carbohydrates / therapeutic use
  • Cisplatin / chemistry
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology
  • Cisplatin / therapeutic use
  • Drug Design*
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Ligands
  • Metals / chemistry
  • Metals / pharmacology*
  • Metals / therapeutic use
  • Molecular Structure
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / chemistry
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Organoplatinum Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Solubility


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Carbohydrates
  • Ligands
  • Metals
  • Organoplatinum Compounds
  • Cisplatin