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1.  Small-Molecule Inhibition of the uPAR·uPA Interaction: Synthesis, Biochemical, Cellular, in vivo Pharmacokinetics and Efficacy Studies in Breast Cancer Metastasis 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2013;21(7):2145-2155.
The uPAR·uPA protein-protein interaction (PPI) is involved in signaling and proteolytic events that promote tumor invasion and metastasis. A previous study had identified 4 (IPR-803) from computational screening of a commercial chemical library and shown that the compound inhibited uPAR·uPA PPI in competition biochemical assays and invasion cellular studies. Here, we synthesize 4 to evaluate in vivo pharmacokinetic (PK) and efficacy studies in a murine breast cancer metastasis model. First, we show, using fluorescence polarization and saturation transfer difference (STD) NMR, that 4 binds directly to uPAR with sub-micromolar affinity of 0.2 μM. We show that 4 blocks invasion of breast MDA-MB-231, and inhibits matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) breakdown of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Derivatives of 4 also inhibited MMP activity and blocked invasion in a concentration-dependent manner. 4 also impaired MDA-MB-231 cell adhesion and migration. Extensive in vivo PK studies in NOD-SCID mice revealed a half-life of nearly 5 hours and peak concentration of 5 μM. Similar levels of the inhibitor were detected in tumor tissue up to 10 hours. Female NSG mice inoculated with highly malignant TMD-MDA-MB-231 in their mammary fat pads showed that 4 impaired metastasis to the lungs with only four of the treated mice showing severe or marked metastasis compared to ten for the untreated mice. Compound 4 is a promising template for the development of compounds with enhanced PK parameters and greater efficacy.
PMCID: PMC3625246  PMID: 23411397
2.  Design, Synthesis, Biochemical Studies, Cellular Characterization, and Structure-Based Computational Studies of Small Molecules Targeting the Urokinase Receptor 
Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry  2012;20(15):4760-4773.
The urokinase receptor (uPAR) serves as a docking site to the serine protease urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) to promote extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation and tumor invasion and metastasis. Previously, we had reported a small molecule inhibitor of the uPAR•uPA interaction that emerged from structure-based virtual screening. Here, we measure the affinity of a large number of derivatives from commercial sources. Synthesis of additional compounds was carried out to probe the role of various groups on the parent compound. Extensive structure-based computational studies suggested a binding mode for these compounds that led to a structure-activity relationship study. Cellular studies in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines that include A549, H460 and H1299 showed that compounds blocked invasion, migration and adhesion. The effects on invasion of active compounds were consistent with their inhibition of uPA and MMP proteolytic activity. These compounds showed weak cytotoxicity consistent with the confined role of uPAR to metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3437670  PMID: 22771232
3.  Targeting Multiple Conformations Leads to Small Molecule Inhibitors of the uPAR·uPA Protein-Protein Interaction that Block Cancer Cell Invasion 
ACS chemical biology  2011;6(11):1232-1243.
Interaction of the urokinase receptor (uPAR) with its binding partners including the urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) at the cell surface triggers a series of proteolytic and signaling events that promote invasion and metastasis. Here, we report the discovery of a small molecule (IPR-456) and its derivatives that inhibit the tight uPAR·uPA protein-protein interaction. IPR-456 was discovered by virtual screening against multiple conformations of uPAR sampled from explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations. Biochemical characterization reveal that the compound binds to uPAR with sub-micromolar affinity (Kd = 310 nM) and inhibits the tight protein-protein interaction with an IC50 of 10 μM. Free energy calculations based on explicit-solvent molecular dynamics simulations suggested the importance of a carboxylate moiety on IPR-456, which was confirmed by the activity of several derivatives including IPR-803. Immunofluorescence imaging showed that IPR-456 inhibited uPA binding to uPAR of breast MDA-MB-231 tumor cells with an IC50 of 8 μM. The compounds blocked MDA-MB-231 cell invasion, but IPR-456 showed little effect on MDA-MB-231 migration, and no effect on adhesion, suggesting that uPAR mediates these processes through its other binding partners.
PMCID: PMC3220747  PMID: 21875078
Virtual screening; small molecule; protein-protein interaction; inhibitor; urokinase receptor; invasion; migration; metastasis; MDA-MB-231; cancer; breast cancer; urokinase-type plasminogen activator; uPAR; uPA; docking; scoring; flexible docking
4.  Virtual Screening Targeting the Urokinase Receptor, Biochemical and Cell-Based Studies, Synthesis, Pharmacokinetic Characterization, and Effect on Breast Tumor Metastasis 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2011;54(20):7193-7205.
Virtual screening targeting the urokinase receptor (uPAR) led to (3R)-4-cyclohexyl-3-(hexahydrobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)-N-((hexahydrobenzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)methyl)butan-1-aminium 1 (IPR-1) and 4-(4-((3,5-dimethylcyclohexyl)carbamoyl)-2-(4-isopropylcyclohexyl)pyrazolidin-3-yl)piperidin-1-ium 3 (IPR-69). Synthesis of an analog of 1, namely 2 (IPR-9), and 3 led to breast MDA-MB-231 invasion, migration and adhesion assays with IC50 near 30 μM. Both compounds blocked angiogenesis with IC50 of 3 μM. Compounds 2 and 3 inhibited cell growth with IC50 of 6 and 18 μM and induced apoptosis. Biochemical assays revealed lead-like properties for 3, but not 2. Compound 3 administered orally reached peak concentration of nearly 40 μM with a half-life of about 2 hours. In NOD-SCID mice inoculated with breast TMD-231 cells in their mammary fat pads, compound 3 showed a 20% reduction in tumor volumes and less extensive metastasis was observed for the treated mice. The suitable pharmacokinetic properties of 3 and the encouraging preliminary results in metastasis make it an ideal starting point for next generation compounds.
PMCID: PMC3280887  PMID: 21851064
5.  Target-Specific Support Vector Machine Scoring in Structure-Based Virtual Screening: Computational Validation, In Vitro Testing in Kinases, and Effects on Lung Cancer Cell Proliferation 
We assess the performance of our previously reported structure-based support vector machine target-specific scoring function across 41 targets, 40 among them from the Directory of Useful Decoys (DUD). The area under the curve of receiver characteristic plots (ROC-AUC) revealed that scoring with SVMSP resulted in consistently better enrichment over all targets families and outperforming Glide and other scoring functions, most notably among kinases. In addition, SVM-SP performance showed little variation among protein classes, exhibited excellent performance in a test case using a homology model, and in some cases showed high enrichment even with few structures used to train a model. We put SVM-SP to the test by virtual screening 1,125 compounds against two kinases, EGFR and CaMKII. Among the top 25 EGFR compounds, three compounds (1–3) inhibited kinase activity in vitro with IC50 of 58, 2, and 10 μM. In cell culture, compounds 1–3 inhibited non-small cell lung carcinoma (H1299) cancer cell proliferation with similar IC50 values for compound 3. For CaMKII, one compound inhibited kinase activity in a dose-dependent manner among 20 tested with an IC50 of 48 μM. These results are encouraging given that our in-house library consists of compounds that emerged from virtual screening of other targets with pockets that are different from typical ATP binding sites found in kinases. In light of the importance of kinases in chemical biology, these findings could have implications in future efforts to identify chemical probes of kinases within the human kinome.
PMCID: PMC3092157  PMID: 21438548
6.  Docking Small Molecules to Predicted Off-Targets of the Cancer Drug Erlotinib Leads to Inhibitors of Lung Cancer Cell Proliferation with Suitable In vitro Pharmacokinetic Properties 
ACS medicinal chemistry letters  2010;1(5):229-233.
In an effort to develop a rational approach to identify anti-cancer agents with selective polypharmacology, we mine millions of docked protein-ligand complexes involving more than a thousand cancer targets from multiple signaling pathways to identify new structural templates for proven pharmacophores. Our method combines Support Vector Machine-based scoring to enrich the initial library of 1,592 molecules, with a fingerprint-based search for molecules that have the same binding profile as the EGFR kinase inhibitor erlotinib. Twelve new compounds were identified. In vitro activity assays revealed that three inhibited EGFR with IC50 values ranging from 250 nM to 200 µM. Additional in vitro studies with hERG, CYP450, DNA and cell culture-based assays further compared their properties to erlotinib. One compound combined suitable pharmacokinetic properties while closely mimicking the binding profile of erlotinib. The compound also inhibited H1299 and H460 tumor cell proliferation. The other two compounds shared some of the binding profile of erlotinib, and one gave the most potent inhibition of tumor cell growth. Interestingly, among the compounds that had not shown inhibition of EGFR, four blocked H1299 and H460 proliferation, one potently with IC50 values near 1 µM. This compound was from the menogaril family, which reached Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of lymphomas. This suggests that our computational approach comparing binding profile may have favored molecules with anti-cancer properties like erlotinib.
PMCID: PMC2931832  PMID: 20824148

Results 1-6 (6)