Francis Darro

Université Libre de Bruxelles, Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium

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Publications (70)220.32 Total impact

  • ChemInform 01/2009; 40(2).
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    ABSTRACT: A divergent and regioselective synthesis of 1,2,4- and 1,2,5-trisubstituted imidazoles from a readily available (two steps) common intermediate has been developed. This methodology is based on the regiocontrolled N-alkylation of 1-(N,N-dimethylsulfamoyl)-5-iodo-2-phenylthio-1H-imidazole (10). When this intermediate is engaged in reaction with methyl triflate, selective formation of the corresponding 1,2,5-trisubsituted 1H-imidazole is observed. NMR studies have revealed that this regioselectivity can be accounted for by in situ rapid isomerization of 10 into its 1,2,4-isomer (13) followed by regiospecific N-alkylation of the latter. Conversely, when key intermediate 10 is slowly added to Meerwein's salt, isomerization can be constrained and regiospecific N-alkylation of 10 leads to 1,2,4-trisubstituted 1H-imidazole with a high selectivity. The general character of this methodology has been illustrated by showing that iodine in position 4 or 5 could be easily substituted by an aryl group by Suzuki coupling, whereas the phenylthio group at position 2 could, after oxidation into sulfone, be displaced by nucleophilic substitution.
    The Journal of Organic Chemistry 10/2008; 73(17):6816-23. · 4.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Several naphthalimides have been evaluated clinically as potential anticancer agents. UNBS3157, a naphthalimide that belongs to the same class as amonafide, was designed to avoid the specific activating metabolism that induces amonafide's hematotoxicity. The current study shows that UNBS3157 rapidly and irreversibly hydrolyzes to UNBS5162 without generating amonafide. In vivo UNBS5162 after repeat administration significantly increased survival in orthotopic human prostate cancer models. Results obtained by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) using UNBS3157 and UNBS5162 against the NCI 60 cell line panel did not show a correlation with any other compound present in the NCI database, including amonafide, thereby suggesting a unique mechanism of action for these two novel naphthalimides. Affymetrix genome-wide microarray analysis and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay revealed that in vitro exposure of PC-3 cells to UNBS5162 (1 microM for 5 successive days) dramatically decreased the expression of the proangiogenic CXCL chemokines. Histopathology additionally revealed antiangiogenic properties in vivo for UNBS5162 in the orthotopic PC-3 model. In conclusion, the present study reveals UNBS5162 to be a pan-antagonist of CXCL chemokine expression, with the compound displaying antitumor effects in experimental models of human refractory prostate cancer when administered alone and found to enhance the activity of taxol when coadministered with the taxoid.
    Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) 07/2008; 10(6):573-86. · 5.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This review covers the isolation, total synthesis, biologic activity, and more particularly the in vitro and in vivo antitumor activities of naturally occurring isocarbostyril alkaloids from the Amaryllidaceae family. Starting from these natural products, new derivatives have been synthesized to explore structure-activity relationships within the chemical class and to obtain potential candidates for preclinical development. This approach appears to be capable of providing novel promising anticancer agents.
    Translational oncology 04/2008; 1(1):1-13. · 3.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Several reports suggest the sodium pump as an interesting oncology target, given that its subunit expression is markedly altered in cancer. By binding to the sodium pump, cardiotonic steroids, notably cardenolides, the natural high-affinity Na+/K+-ATPase ligands, elicit marked effects on cancer cell behavior and a number of studies have emphasized their potential use in oncology. Chemical modifications of 2″-oxovoruscharin (a novel cardenolide extracted from Calotropis procera) based on an understanding of the structure–activity relationship within the series, has led to the identification of UNBS1450, a molecule characterized by more potent anti-proliferative activity and lower toxicity than classic cardenolides. In aggressive and metastatic orthotopic NSCLC, refractory prostate cancer, and glioma models, UNBS1450 is more potent than tested reference compounds, including taxol, irinotecan, oxaliplatin, mitoxantrone, and temozolomide. The general mechanism of action associated with UNBS1450-mediated anti-cancer effects relates to the disorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. UNBS1450 can thus be considered both anti-proliferative (cytotoxic) and anti-migratory, given that the actin cytoskeleton is essential to cytokinesis and to cancer cell migration. UNBS1450 also induces non-apoptotic cell death processes (e.g., lysosome membrane permeabilization and autophagy) and thus may overcome major apoptosis resistance pathways responsible for the failure of therapeutics in certain cancers. UNBS1450 is currently in preclinical development and should reach Phase I clinical trials in 2008. Drug Dev Res 68:164–173, 2007. ©2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
    Drug Development Research 10/2007; 68(4):164 - 173. · 0.87 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Our study has shown that the Amaryllidaceae isocarbostyril narciclasine induces marked apoptosis-mediated cytotoxic effects in human cancer cells but not in normal fibroblasts by triggering the activation of the initiator caspases of the death receptor pathway (caspase-8 and caspase-10) at least in human MCF-7 breast and PC-3 prostate carcinoma cells. The formation of the Fas and death receptor 4 (DR4) death-inducing signaling complex was clearly evidenced in MCF-7 and PC-3 cancer cells. Caspase-8 was found to interact with Fas and DR4 receptors on narciclasine treatment. However, narciclasine-induced downstream apoptotic pathways in MCF-7 cells diverged from those in PC-3 cells, where caspase-8 directly activated effector caspases such as caspase-3 in the absence of any further release of mitochondrial proapoptotic effectors. In contrast, in MCF-7 cells, the apoptotic process was found to require an amplification step that is mitochondria-dependent, with Bid processing, release of cytochrome c, and caspase-9 activation. It is postulated that the high selectivity of narciclasine to cancer cells might be linked, at least in part, to this activation of the death receptor pathway. Normal human fibroblasts appear approximately 250-fold less sensitive to narciclasine, which does not induce apoptosis in these cells probably due to the absence of death receptor pathway activation.
    Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) 10/2007; 9(9):766-76. · 5.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The sodium pump, Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase, could be an important target for the development of anti-cancer drugs as it serves as a versatile signal transducer, it is a key player in cell adhesion and its aberrant expression and activity are implicated in the development and progression of different cancers. Cardiotonic steroids, known ligands of the sodium pump have been widely used for the treatment of heart failure. However, early epidemiological evaluations and subsequent demonstration of anti-cancer activity in vitro and in vivo have indicated the possibility of developing this class of compound as chemotherapeutic agents in oncology. Their development to date as anti-cancer agents has however been impaired by a narrow therapeutic margin resulting from their potential to induce cardiovascular side-effects. The review will thus discuss (i) sodium pump structure, function, expression in diverse cancers and its chemical targeting and that of its sub-units, (ii) reported in vitro and in vivo anti-cancer activity of cardiotonic steroids, (iii) managing the toxicity of these compounds and the limitations of existing preclinical models to adequately predict the cardiotoxic potential of new molecules in man and (iv) the potential of chemical modification to reduce the cardiovascular side-effects and improve the anti-cancer activity of new molecules.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 10/2007; 1776(1):32-57. · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amonafide (1), a naphthalimide which binds to DNA by intercalation and poisons topoisomerase IIalpha, has demonstrated activity in phase II breast cancer trials, but has failed thus far to enter clinical phase III because of dose-limiting bone marrow toxicity. Compound 17 (one of 41 new compounds synthesized) is a novel anticancer naphthalimide with a distinct mechanism of action, notably inducing autophagy and senescence in cancer cells. Compound 17 (2,2,2-trichloro-N-({2-[2-(dimethylamino)ethyl]-1,3-dioxo-2,3-dihydro-1H-benzo[de]isoquinolin-5-yl}carbamoyl)acetamide (UNBS3157)) was found to have a 3-4-fold higher maximum tolerated dose compared to amonafide and not to provoke hematotoxicity in mice at doses that display significant antitumor effects. Furthermore, 17 has shown itself to be superior to amonafide in vivo in models of (i) L1210 murine leukemia, (ii) MXT-HI murine mammary adenocarcinoma, and (iii) orthotopic models of human A549 NSCLC and BxPC3 pancreatic cancer. Compound 17, therefore, merits further investigation as a potential anticancer agent.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 09/2007; 50(17):4122-34. · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: With an overall 5 year survival rate as low as 15% for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), even with surgical intervention and the use of newer molecules in adjuvant chemotherapy, there is an urgent need for new biological targets and associated novel anti-cancer agents. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the potential of the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase alpha1 subunit as a novel target in NSCLC and revealed that alpha1 expression is markedly higher in a significant proportion of NSCLC clinical samples compared to normal lung tissue. Furthermore, reduction in alpha1 expression in A549 NSCLC cells by anti-alpha1 siRNA resulted in markedly impaired proliferation and migration of these cancer cells. Finally, of three cardenolides investigated, UNBS1450, which is known to bind to Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase and displays potent anti-tumour activity in vivo in experimental models of human NSCLCs, is the most potent inhibitor of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase isozymes (alpha1beta1, alpha2beta1 and alpha3beta1), most strikingly of alpha1beta1. This was reflected in the compound's more potent anti-proliferative activity in all NSCLC cell lines evaluated (A549, Cal-12T, NCI-H727 and A427); the first three of which over-express alpha1. The marked impairment in A549 NSCLC cell proliferation and migration, and resulting similar morphology following anti-alpha1 siRNA or UNBS1450 treatment, was associated with features of abnormal cytokinesis, mediated in the case of UNBS1450 by disorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Collectively these data strongly suggest that targeting the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase alpha1 using specific cardenolides could represent a novel means to combat certain NSCLCs.
    The Journal of Pathology 07/2007; 212(2):170-9. · 7.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A C16 norsesterterpenoid (euplectellodiol, 1) and a norditerpenoid (2) have been isolated from the marine sponges Mycale euplectelloides and Diacarnus megaspinorhabdosa, respectively. Their structures have been determined by spectroscopic methods. Compounds 1 and 2 are new natural products.
    Natural Product Research 03/2007; 21(2):149-55. · 1.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Four calamenene sequiterpenes, (+)-(7R,10S)-15-hydroxycalamenene (3), (+)-(7R,10S)-2,15-dihydroxycalamenene (4), (+)-(7R,10S)-2-hydroxy-15-calamenal (5), (+)-(7R,10S)-15-calamenal (6), along with the amorphane sesquiterpene (+)-(1S,6R,7R,10S)-1-hydroxy-3-oxo-amorph-4-ene (16), have been isolated from the Madagascan shrub Tarenna madagascariensis (Rubiaceae) and their structures determined by spectroscopic methods and chemical correlations. Furthermore, five known related sesquiterpenes [(+)-(7R,10S)-2-hydroxycalamenene (1), (+)-(7R,10S)-3-hydroxycalamenene (2), (-)-alpha-cadinol (13), cadinenal (14), 6-epicadinenal (15)], and three known lignans [(-)-hinokinin, (-)-dihydrocubebin, (-)-cubebin] were also isolated from the same plant. This is the first report of compounds 3, 4, 5, 6, and 16 from a natural source.
    Natural Product Research 03/2007; 21(2):111-20. · 1.03 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) are the leading cause of cancer deaths in most developed countries. Targeting heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) expression and function, together with the induction of lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP), could overcome the multiple anti-cell death mechanisms evidenced in NSCLCs that are responsible for the failure of currently used chemotherapeutic drugs. Because cardenolides bind to the sodium pump, they affect multiple signaling pathways and thus have a number of marked effects on tumor cell behavior. The aim of the present study was to characterize in vitro and in vivo the antitumor effects of a new cardenolide (UNBS1450) on experimental human NSCLCs. UNBS1450 is a potent source of in vivo antitumor activity in the case of paclitaxel-and oxaliplatin-resistant subcutaneous human NCI-H727 and orthotopic A549 xenografts in nude mice. In vitro UNBS1450-mediated antitumor activity results from the induction of nonapoptotic cell death. UNBS1450 mediates the decrease of Hsp70 at both mRNA and protein levels, and this is at least partly due to UNBS1450-induced downregulation of NFAT5/TonEBP (a factor responsible for the transcriptional control of Hsp70). These effects were paralleled by the induction of LMP, as evidenced by acridine orange staining and immunofluorescence analysis for cathepsin B accumulation.
    Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.) 06/2006; 8(5):402-12. · 5.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Various mono- and disaccharides were grafted onto a steroid backbone. Whereas in vitro these glycosylated steroids had no cytotoxic effects on six different human cancer cell lines, several of the glycosylated steroids under study did significantly modify the levels of in vitro migration of the human U373 glioblastoma, the A549 non-small-cell-lung cancer (NSCLC), and the PC-3 prostate cancer cells, with more pronounced effects in the case of a monosubstituted beta-L-fucopyranosyl-steroid (19), a monosubstituted beta-D-isomaltosyl-steroid (22), and a monosubstituted beta-D-lactosyl-steroid (24). These three compounds significantly increased the survival of conventional mice grafted subcutaneously with the P388 lymphoma, a lymphoma that metastasizes toward the liver. In vivo, the monosubstituted beta-D-lactosyl-steroid (24) also increased the antitumor effectiveness of cisplatin, a cytotoxic pro-apoptotic drug, in the case of the P388 lymphoma model. This compound also increased the survival of immunodeficient mice into whose brains human U373 glioblastoma cells had been orthotopically grafted.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 04/2006; 49(5):1800-7. · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) are associated with very dismal prognoses, and adjuvant chemotherapy, including irinotecan, taxanes, platin, and Vinca alkaloid derivatives, offers patients only slight clinical benefits. Part of the chemoresistance of NSCLCs results from the constitutive or anticancer drug-induced activation of the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) signaling pathways. The present study shows that human A549 NSCLC cells display highly activated cytoprotective NF-kappaB signaling pathways. UNBS1450, which is a cardenolide belonging to the same class of chemicals as ouabain and digitoxin, affected the expression and activation status of different constituents of the NF-kappaB pathways in these A549 tumor cells. The modifications brought about by UNBS1450 led to a decrease in both the DNA-binding capacity of the p65 subunit and the NF-kappaB transcriptional activity. Using the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2yl)-dephenyltetrazolium bromide colorimetric assay, we observed in vitro that UNBS1450 was as potent as taxol and SN38 (the active metabolite of irinotecan) in reducing the overall growth levels of the human A549 NSCLC cell line, and was more efficient than platin derivatives, including cisplatin, carboplatin, and oxaliplatin. The chronic in vivo i.p. and p.o. UNBS1450 treatments of human A549 orthotopic xenografts metastasizing to the brains and the livers of immunodeficient mice had a number of significant therapeutic effects on this very aggressive model.
    Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 03/2006; 5(2):391-9. · 5.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Galectins form a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins defined by their affinity for beta-galactosides containing glycoconjugates. The carbohydrate recognition domain (CRD) is responsible for the specificity of galectins for saccharides. This binding may result in modulated cell proliferation, cell death and cell migration, three processes that are intimately involved in cancer initiation and progression. Galectins can also display protein-protein types of interactions with their binding partners. Certain galectins directly involved in cancer progression seem to be promising targets for the development of novel therapeutic strategies to combat cancer. Indeed, migrating cancer cells resistant to apoptosis still constitute the principal target for the cytotoxic drugs used to treat cancer patients. Reducing the levels of migration in apoptosis-resistant cancer cells can restore certain levels of sensitivity to apoptosis (and so to pro-apoptotic drugs) in restricted-migration cancer cells. Anti-galectin agents can restrict the levels of migration of several types of cancer cell and should therefore be used in association with cytotoxic drugs to combat metastatic cancer. We provide experimental proof in support of this concept. While the present review focuses on various experimental strategies to impair cancer progression by targeting certain types of galectins, it pays particular attention to glioblastomas, which constitute the ultimate level of malignancy in primary brain tumors. Glioblastomas form the most common type of malignant brain tumor in children and adults, and no glioblastoma patient has been cured to date.
    Current Medicinal Chemistry 02/2006; 13(29):3513-27. · 3.72 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: To establish the pharmacological profile of a molecule with anti-cancer potential, it seems essential to add an in vivo approach to the first pharmacological experiments carried out in vitro. The present study aims to characterize the degree of sensitivity of seven syngeneic models (two leukemias and five solid tumors) to eleven molecules which have proven to be clinically reliable. We also used some of these models to investigate whether the molecular effects on the extent of growth in a subcutaneously grafted experimental model correlate with the effects of the same drug on the survival of the animals so grafted. Our data show that all the molecules demonstrated significant anti-tumor activities in two mouse leukemia models (with some discrepancies between the two). Two lymphoma models displayed weaker chemosensitivity profiles than the two leukemia models from which they were developed. Two other models, namely the MXT-HS mammary carcinoma and the B16 melanoma, appeared to be rather chemoresistant. However, a direct relationship was evident between the drug-induced decrease in the tumor growth rate and the increase observed in the survival periods of the MXT tumor-bearing mice. This relationship was also observed in the L1210_LYM lymphoma, though to a lesser extent, and was completely absent from the B16 melanoma model. Finally, our data indicated that we had developed a pair of metastasizing, as opposed to non-metastasizing, lymphoma and mammary carcinoma models. In conclusion, the present study shows that syngeneic mouse tumor models can be used as valuable in vivo experimental models for the screening of potential anti-cancer agents.
    International Journal of Oncology 10/2005; 27(3):607-16. · 2.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Malignant gliomas consist of both heterogeneous proliferating and migrating cell subpopulations, with migrating glioma cells exhibiting less sensitivity to antiproliferative or proapoptotic drugs than proliferative cells. Therefore, the authors combined cimetidine, an antiinflammatory agent already proven to act against migrating epithelial cancer cells, with temozolomide to determine whether the combination induces antitumor activities in experimental orthotopic human gliomas compared with the effects of temozolomide alone. Cimetidine added to temozolomide compared with temozolomide alone induced survival benefits in nude mice with U373 human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cells orthotopically xenografted in the brain. Computer-assisted phase-contrast microscopy analyses of 9L rat and U373 human GBM cells showed that cimetidine significantly decreased the migration levels of these tumor cells in vitro at concentrations at which tumor growth levels were not modified (as revealed on monotetrazolium colorimetric assay). Computer-assisted microscope analyses of neoglycoconjugate-based glycohistochemical staining profiles of 9L gliosarcomas grown in vivo revealed that cimetidine significantly decreased expression levels of endogenous receptors for fucose and, to a lesser extent, for N-acetyl-lactosamine moieties. Endogenous receptors of this specificity are known to play important roles in adhesion and migration processes of brain tumor cells. Cimetidine, acting as an antiadhesive and therefore an antimigratory agent for glioma cells, could be added in complement to the cytotoxic temozolomide compound to combat both migrating and proliferating cells in GBM.
    Journal of Neurosurgery 05/2005; 102(4):706-14. · 3.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Analysis of the methanolic extract of Calotropis procera root barks enabled the identification of a novel cardenolide (2''-oxovoruscharin) to be made. Of the 27 compounds that we hemisynthesized, one (23) exhibited a very interesting profile with respect to its hemisynthetic chemical yield, its in vitro antitumor activity, its in vitro inhibitory influence on the Na+/K+-ATPase activity, and its in vivo tolerance. Compound 23 displayed in vitro antitumor activity on a panel of 57 human cancer cell lines similar to taxol, and higher than SN-38 (the active metabolite of irinotecan), two of the most potent drugs used in hospitals to combat cancer.
    Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 03/2005; 48(3):849-56. · 5.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Nonsmall cell lung carcinomas (NSCLCs) are associated with very dismal prognoses, and adjuvant chemotherapy, including irinotecan, taxanes, platin, and vinca alkaloid derivatives, offer patients only slight clinical benefits. Part of the chemoresistance of NSCLC results from the expression in NSCLC cells of a very large set of endogenous proteins, which antagonize chemotherapy-mediated attacks on these tumor cells. The authors set up an orthotopic model of a human NSCLC by grafting A549 cells into the lungs of nude mice. They tried treating these A549 NSCLC orthotopic xenograft-bearing nude mice on the basis of various chemotherapeutic protocols, including chronic administrations of taxol, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan. A cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor (NS-398) also was assayed in combination with taxol. The immunohistochemical expression levels of COX-2, prostaglandin E synthetase (PGES), ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the lung-related resistance protein (LRP), and glutathione-S-transferase-alpha (GST-alpha), GST-mu, and GST-pi were quantitatively determined by means of computer-assisted microscopy in control and drug-treated NSCLC orthotopic xenografts. The orthotopic A549 xenograft model developed in 100% of the grafted mice, leading to brain metastases in approximately 61% mice and to liver metastases in approximately 40% of mice. The model was resistant to taxol and oxaliplatin and was only weakly sensitive to irinotecan. High levels of chemoresistant markers (i.e., COX-2, PGES, ODC, LRP, GST-alpha, GST-mu, and GST-pi) were observed in the nontreated A549 xenografts, although with dramatic variations in individual expression. Taxol and oxaliplatin significantly increased the levels of expression of COX-2, PGES, GST-mu, and GST-pi in a number of different experimental protocols. The A549 orthotopic xenograft model could be used to evaluate investigational chemotherapeutic agents to identify drugs rapidly that are more active than the drugs currently in use in hospitals.
    Cancer 11/2004; 101(8):1908-18. · 5.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A series of cycle C and D-substituted phenanthrolin-7-ones, analogues of the marine pyridoacridines meridine and ascididemin have been synthesized on the basis of Diels-Alder reactions involving quinoline-5,8-dione and 2- (or un)-substituted-N,N-dimethylhydrazones. All the compounds were evaluated for in vitro cytotoxic activity against 12 distinct human cancer cell lines. They all exhibit cytotoxic activity with IC(50) values at least of micromolar order.
    Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry 09/2004; 12(15):3987-94. · 2.90 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
220.32 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1998–2008
    • Université Libre de Bruxelles
      • • Faculty of Sciences
      • • Laboratory of Biology (BIO)
      • • Laboratory of Parasitology
      • • Faculty of Medicine
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
    • Institut Jules Bordet
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
  • 1995–2006
    • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
      • Department of Pathology
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
  • 2001–2003
    • Université de Perpignan
      Perpinyà, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
    • Ludwig-Maximilian-University of Munich
      • Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
      München, Bavaria, Germany
    • Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc
      • Division of Pathology
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
    • Natural Product Chemistry Institute
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
  • 2002
    • Université d'Orléans
      • Institute of Organic and Analytical Chemistry
      Orléans, Centre, France
  • 1993–1995
    • Centre de Recherche Pierre Fabre
      Tolosa de Llenguadoc, Midi-Pyrénées, France