Malaria and cancer cause the death of millions of people every year. To combat these two diseases, it is important that new pharmaceutically active compounds have the ability to overcome multidrug resistance in cancer and Plasmodium falciparum strains. In search of effective anti-cancer and anti-malaria hybrids that possess improved properties compared to their parent compounds, a series of novel 1,2,4-trioxane-based hybrids incorporating egonol and/or ferrocene fragments were synthesized and tested in vitro against P. falciparum strains, CCRF-CEM cells and the multidrug-resistant P-glycoprotein-over-expressing CEM/ADR5000 cells. The most active compounds against P. falciparum strains were artesunic acid homodimers 12 and 13 (IC50 of 0.32 and 0.30 nM, respectively), whereas novel hybrids 7 (1,2,4-trioxane-ferrocene-egonol), 9 (1,2,4-trioxane-ferrocene) and 11 (artesunic acid-egonol) showed a remarkable cytotoxicity toward CCRF-CEM cells (IC50 of 0.07, 0.25 and 0.18 μM, respectively). A cooperative and synergistic effect of the three moieties 1,2,4-trioxane, ferrocene and egonol in hybrid molecule 7 is significant and is obviously stronger than in hybrids 9 (1,2,4-trioxane-ferrocene) and 11 (artesunic acid-egonol), which comprises of only two of the three considered parent compounds. Interestingly, hybrid 9 containing a 1,2,4-trioxane and a ferrocene fragment has shown to be the most effective among the studied hybrids against the tested multidrug-resistant leukemia CEM/ADR5000 cells (IC50 of 0.57 μM) and possesses a degree of cross-resistance of 2.34.
Keywords: Artemisinin; Cancer; Egonol; Ferrocene; Hybrid; Malaria.
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