The biological activity of auranofin: implications for novel treatment of diseases

Inflammopharmacology. 2012 Dec;20(6):297-306. doi: 10.1007/s10787-012-0149-1. Epub 2012 Sep 11.


More than 30 years ago, auranofin was developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis as a substitution for the injectable gold compounds aurothiomalate and aurothioglucose. Both the ease of oral administration over intramuscular injections and more potent anti-inflammatory effects in vitro made auranofin seem like an excellent substitute for the traditional injectable gold compounds. Despite efficacy in the treatment of both rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, currently, auranofin is seldom used as a treatment for patients with rheumatoid arthritis as more novel anti-rheumatic medications have become available. Despite the decline in its clinical applications, research on auranofin has continued as it shows promise in the treatment of several different diseases. In recent years, advances in technology have allowed researchers to use molecular techniques to identify novel mechanisms of action of auranofin. Additionally, researchers are discovering potential new applications of auranofin. Dual inhibition of inflammatory pathways and thiol redox enzymes by auranofin makes it a new candidate for cancer therapy and treating microbial infections. This review will summarize recently obtained data on the mechanisms of action of auranofin, and potential new applications of auranofin in the treatment of various diseases, including several types of leukaemia, carcinomas, and parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Auranofin / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Leukemia / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Parasitic Diseases / drug therapy
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Auranofin