Metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer is commonly treated with chemotherapy, whose effect is less than satisfactory. This raised the need for novel agents for the treatment of prostate cancer. In the present study, five phthalimide-based curcumin derivatives were synthesized and completely characterized to assess improved stability, pharmacodynamics, and radical scavenging ability. To investigate the potential application in anti-cancer therapy, the anti-proliferative activity of the synthesized molecules was determined on aggressive prostate tumor cells. We demonstrated that the K3F21 derivative has increased potency compared to curcumin, in terms of GI50, anti-proliferative and anti-migrating activities. K3F21 inhibits anchorage-dependent and -independent growth of prostate cancer cells by altering the expression of key genes controlling cell proliferation, such as Cylins D1, B1 and B2, and apoptosis, among which Puma, Noxa, and Bcl-2 family members. Finally, the anti-cancer activity of K3F21 was demonstrated by the analysis of cancer-associated PI3K/AKT, ERK, and p38 signaling pathways.
Keywords: anti-cancer drugs; cell proliferation; curcuminoids; phthalimide; prostate cancer.