Redox-silent tocotrienol esters as breast cancer proliferation and migration inhibitors

Bioorg Med Chem. 2010 Nov 15;18(22):8066-75. doi: 10.1016/j.bmc.2010.09.009. Epub 2010 Sep 19.


Tocotrienols are vitamin E members with potent antiproliferative activity against preneoplastic and neoplastic mammary epithelial cells with little or no effect on normal cell growth or functions. However, physicochemical and pharmacokinetic properties greatly limit their use as therapeutic agents. Tocotrienols' chemical instability, poor water solubility, NPC1L1-mediated transport, and rapid metabolism are examples of such obstacles which hinder the therapeutic use of these valuable natural products. Vitamin E esters like α-tocopheryl succinate were prepared to significantly improve chemical and metabolic stability, water solubility, and potency. Thus, 12 semisynthetic tocotrienol ester analogues 4-15 were prepared by direct esterification of natural tocotrienol isomers with various acid anhydrides or chlorides. Esters 4-15 were evaluated for their ability to inhibit the proliferation and migration of the mammary tumor cells +SA and MDA-MB-231, respectively. Esters 5, 9, and 11 effectively inhibited the proliferation of the highly metastatic +SA rodent mammary epithelial cells with IC(50) values of 0.62, 0.51, and 0.86μM, respectively, at doses that had no effect on immortalized normal mouse CL-S1 mammary epithelial cells. Esters 4, 6, 8-10, and 13 inhibited 50% of the migration of the human metastatic MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells at a single 5μM dose in wound-healing assay. The most active ester 9 was 1000-fold more water-soluble and chemically stable versus its parent α-tocotrienol (1). These findings strongly suggest that redox-silent tocotrienol esters may provide superior therapeutic forms of tocotrienols for the control of metastatic breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Esters
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology
  • Mice
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Rats
  • Solubility
  • Tocotrienols / chemical synthesis
  • Tocotrienols / chemistry*
  • Tocotrienols / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Esters
  • Tocotrienols