Matrilysin is an ideal biological target to develop novel inhibitors because it is overexpressed in malignant tumour cells. A series of 3,9-diazatetraasteranes was designed as inhibitors of matrilysin, which was an ideal biological target because it is responsible for aggressive malignant phenotypes and poor prognoses implicated in many cancers. Docking simulation supported the initial pharmacophore hypothesis and suggested a common interaction mechanism of 3,9-diazatetraasteranes with the catalytic site of matrilysin. The 3,9-diazatetraasteranes were synthesized by the photocyclization of 4-aryl-1,4-dihydropyridines, and their structures were determined using 1H NMR, 13C NMR and MS. The inhibitory activities of these compounds on matrilysin were investigated in vitro using an MTT assay in A549 (small cell lung cancer) cells. The results show that the 3,9-diazatetraasteranes can inhibit the growth of A549 tumour cells. The best IC50 value is approximately 50 μm. This result indicates that 3,9-diazatetraasteranes will be useful pharmacological tools for the investigation of matrilysin inhibitors.