Increasing Intracellular Bioavailable Copper Selectively Targets Prostate Cancer Cells

ACS Chem Biol. 2013 Jul 19;8(7):1621-31. doi: 10.1021/cb400198p. Epub 2013 May 24.


The therapeutic efficacy of two bis(thiosemicarbazonato) copper complexes, glyoxalbis[N4-methylthiosemicarbazonato]Cu(II) [Cu(II)(gtsm)] and diacetylbis[N4-methylthiosemicarbazonato]Cu(II) [Cu(II)(atsm)], for the treatment of prostate cancer was assessed in cell culture and animal models. Distinctively, copper dissociates intracellularly from Cu(II)(gtsm) but is retained by Cu(II)(atsm). We further demonstrated that intracellular H2gtsm [reduced Cu(II)(gtsm)] continues to redistribute copper into a bioavailable (exchangeable) pool. Both Cu(II)(gtsm) and Cu(II)(atsm) selectively kill transformed (hyperplastic and carcinoma) prostate cell lines but, importantly, do not affect the viability of primary prostate epithelial cells. Increasing extracellular copper concentrations enhanced the therapeutic capacity of both Cu(II)(gtsm) and Cu(II)(atsm), and their ligands (H2gtsm and H2atsm) were toxic only toward cancerous prostate cells when combined with copper. Treatment of the Transgenic Adenocarcinoma of Mouse Prostate (TRAMP) model with Cu(II)(gtsm) (2.5 mg/kg) significantly reduced prostate cancer burden (∼70%) and severity (grade), while treatment with Cu(II)(atsm) (30 mg/kg) was ineffective at the given dose. However, Cu(II)(gtsm) caused mild kidney toxicity in the mice, associated primarily with interstitial nephritis and luminal distention. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that Cu(II)(gtsm) inhibits proteasomal chymotrypsin-like activity, a feature further established as being common to copper-ionophores that increase intracellular bioavailable copper. We have demonstrated that increasing intracellular bioavailable copper can selectively kill cancerous prostate cells in vitro and in vivo and have revealed the potential for bis(thiosemicarbazone) copper complexes to be developed as therapeutics for prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Copper / pharmacokinetics
  • Copper / pharmacology*
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Molecular Structure
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry*
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacokinetics
  • Organometallic Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Copper