Scaffold hopping from indoles to indazoles yields dual MCL-1/BCL-2 inhibitors from MCL-1 selective leads

RSC Med Chem. 2022 Jun 3;13(8):963-969. doi: 10.1039/d2md00095d. eCollection 2022 Aug 17.


Overexpression of the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 proteins is associated with the development and progression of a range of cancers. Venetoclax, an FDA-approved BCL-2 inhibitor, is fast becoming the standard-of-care for acute myeloid leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. However, the median survival offered by venetoclax is only 18 months (as part of a combination therapy regimen), and one of the primary culprits for this is the concomitant upregulation of sister anti-apoptotic proteins, in particular MCL-1 (and BCL-xL), which provides an escape route that manifests as venetoclax resistance. Since inhibition of BCL-xL leads to thrombocytopenia, we believe that a dual MCL-1/BCL-2 inhibitor may provide an enhanced therapeutic effect relative to a selective BCL-2 inhibitor. Beginning with a carboxylic acid-containing literature compound that is a potent inhibitor of MCL-1 and a moderate inhibitor of BCL-2, we herein describe our efforts to develop dual inhibitors of MCL-1 and BCL-2 by scaffold hopping from an indole core to an indazole framework. Subsequently, further elaboration of our novel N2-substituted, indazole-3-carboxylic acid lead into a family of indazole-3-acylsulfonamides resulted in improved inhibition of both MCL-1 and BCL-2, possibly through occupation of the p4 pocket, with minimal or no inhibition of BCL-xL.