Antitumor activity of gold(III)-dithiocarbamato derivatives on prostate cancer cells and xenografts



Among the nonplatinum antitumor drugs, gold(III)-dithiocarbamato derivatives have recently attracted considerable attention due to their strong in vitro and in vivo antiproliferative activity and reduced renal toxicity. Some of them, namely [AuCl2(DMDT)] (compound 1) and [AuBr2(ESDT)] (compound 2), have shown to be highly active against the androgen-resistant prostate cancer cell lines PC3 and DU145, both inhibiting cell proliferation in a dose-dependent way, and are more active than the reference drug cisplatin (cis-[PtCl2(NH3)2]). In particular, [AuCl2(DMDT)] was proved cytotoxic against cisplatin-resistant R-PC3 cells, with activity levels comparable to those induced on the parent cisplatin-sensitive PC3 cells, ruling out the occurrence of cross-resistance phenomena. Moreover, it causes early cell damage, slightly affecting the cell cycle, thus suggesting a different mechanism of action from clinically established platinum-based drugs. In fact, the investigated gold(III) complex alters mitochondrial functions, promoting mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and Cyt-c release, stimulating ROS generation, and strongly inhibiting the activity of the selenoenzyme TrxR, which is overexpressed in prostate cancer and associated with the onset of drug resistance. In addition, it induces apoptosis, caspase activation, Bcl-2 downregulation and Bax upregulation, reduces the expression of the phosphorylated form of the EGFR, and it inhibits PC3 cell migration. Finally, the treatment of PC3 prostate tumor-bearing nude mice with [AuCl2(DMDT)] significantly inhibited tumor growth in vivo, causing minimal systemic toxicity. Altogether, our results confirm that these gold(III)-dithiocarbamato derivatives have potential for the treatment of prostate cancer.